By Naiymah Ariana Sanchez, Transgender Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of PA
Last week’s tweets and direct attacks from commander-in-chief Donald Trump have undermined transgender Americans serving in the U.S. military. There are over 15,000 trans Americans who are enlisted and serving in the armed forces, and they are willing and able to fight on the front lines of many battles. In 2016, Donald Trump tweeted support to the LGBT community and attacked Hillary Clinton for not doing so. Now, as president, he has shown that any promises he made, or community-building he suggested he might carry out, were only for political gain.
In Trump, we have someone who has no political background and no military background attempting to codify discrimination in the nation’s military. The ability of transgender individuals to serve in the military should not be an issue. Being transgender is not a burden to the armed forces, as the Department of Defense determined after significantly vetting the issue before implementing its policy to allow transgender service members to serve openly. But discriminating against transgender individuals is a burden to the transgender men and women who feel called to duty and to the ability of our military to carry out its missions.
If someone is cleared physically and mentally to serve in the military, they should be allowed to do so. Supporting those who are transgender does not cost the military any more than it costs the Department of Defense to care for any other person serving their country. As multiple studies and the experience of our allies show, allowing trans people to fight for their country has zero cost or impact on military readiness.
My personal view as a transgender female is that the president is flat wrong when he says we are a burden. In fact, the unfair stereotypes and harassment and discrimination we face as transgender Americans actually make life a burden for us. We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, mothers, physicians generals, and mayors — and we can adequately do our jobs, whatever the circumstances are. Being transgender does not affect our work ethic.
Donald Trump’s tweeted attacks are not going to be accepted. We will fight back. I want people to understand that being transgender is not a choice, and the only choice we have at this point is choosing to fight for our nation. If I had a choice, I would choose to have society view transgender individuals as they would view any other human being.