By Ellen McGirt
Updated: March 26, 2018 3:03 PM ET

Hundreds of thousands of students, parents, friends, and allies poured into the streets of Washington, D.C. and other cities around the U.S. to demand stronger gun laws during Saturday’s March for Our Lives Rally.

If you haven’t had the time to watch the extraordinary speeches from some of the young activists who took the stage, by all means, do.

But I want to draw your attention to some additional news that may have not hit your radar. It could use a little activism action.

Late Friday night, the Trump administration released a memo which confirmed a near total ban on transgender people serving in the military. It was a preceded by an earlier memo from Defense Secretary James Mattis recommending the change, reversing an Obama-era rule of inclusion.

From the president’s memorandum:

Among other things, the policies set forth by the Secretary of Defense state that transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.

Transgender troops currently in the military may stay, but it appears as if the Pentagon could require them to serve according to their gender at birth.

The announcement sent shockwaves throughout the LGBTQ community. Katelyn Burns a freelance writer for Them, interviewed several transgender service members, many of whom called B.S. on the medical aspect of the ban. For one, service members are routinely deployed with twelve months worth of meds for things like malaria prevention or blood pressure management. As Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann told Them, “There is no point in transition that a person is non-deployable for twelve consecutive months.” Dremann is a trans man who also supervises transgender troops currently deployed in places like Jordan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. “Not a single person that is currently serving has been non-deployable for twelve consecutive months for any reason related to transition,” he says.

A report commissioned by the Pentagon in 2016 on the possible effects of allowing transgender people to serve, showed that the costs would be negligible both in terms of medical requirements and unit cohesion. The study, conducted by the Rand Corporation, estimated that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender individuals on active duty in a force of 1.3 million people. The cost of providing those individuals with specialized health care, including possible surgeries, would be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year. Total military health-care expenditures were $6.27 billion in 2014.

But in his memo, Mattis said that the Rand study “heavily caveated data to support its conclusions, glossed over the impacts of health care costs, readiness, and unit cohesion, and erroneously relied on the selective experiences of foreign militaries with different operational requirements than our own.” Bottom line, “this policy issue has proven more complex than the prior administration or Rand assumed,” he wrote.

It’s entirely possible that the new ban will not survive. In many ways, it’s little different from the administration’s previous attempt, which inspired a slew of lawsuits on constitutional grounds. Four federal courts have issued injunctions in cases filed by civil rights groups. “This policy is not based on an evaluation of new evidence,” said Joshua Block, a Senior Staff Attorney for the ACLU in a statement. “It is reverse-engineered for the sole purpose of carrying out President Trump’s reckless and unconstitutional ban, undermining the ability of transgender service members to serve openly and military readiness as a whole.”

While corporations have laudably led on transgender inclusion in often remarkable ways, this issue remains an open wound for a community that has not only been fighting for the right to die for our country but to walk down the street safely.


You May Like