President Trump signed an unnecessary and divisive directive that bans the military from recruiting transgender service members, and bans the Department of Defense from providing necessary medical care for current transgender service members. At press time, it is unclear if currently serving members will be able to continue since The White House has left questions unanswered.
“This is an unpatriotic and irresponsible move by our current President. The estimated cost of $960 million to remove currently serving transgender service members, over 100 times the cost of retaining these patriots, and the effect it will have on military readiness and countless lives and livelihoods is too high to justify in the name of discrimination. During my ten years in service, and my deployment to Iraq, I served my country to the best of my abilities with many sacrifices made by my family. This is a slap in the face to any veteran who has fought for their country. We will continue to fight for our brothers and sisters in arms to be able to serve with the same tenacity that we fought for the country that we love,” said Staff Sergeant (SSG) Jennifer Ingram, US Army Reserve (honorably discharged) of San Antonio.
“As the grandchild of a lifelong Army Sergeant Major, I learned unit cohesion and following orders were what made a good service member. Not the color of our skin, sexual orientation or gender identity. Serving our country is an honor and should be allowed to anyone who is committed to giving their life for our freedom.” said Lou Weaver, Equality Texas Transgender Programs Coordinator.
“I served this country to protect all who live here. It doesn’t matter whether they are transgender or not. My service didn’t depend on me being transgender. I served because I wanted to be a Marine” said Corporal Nicole Lynn Perry, United States Marine Corps of Carrollton.
Last month, when Trump first announced his intention to institute a ban on transgender service members, over 200 LGBTQ leaders who were gathered for Equality Federation’s Leadership Conference issued a statement that featured the voices of transgender veterans.
That statement, which we reiterate today, is below:
July 26, 2017
“Today’s reprehensible attack on transgender military personnel by President Trump is unconscionable. The more than 15,000 transgender Americans who serve our country today deserve nothing but respect from their commander-in-chief. Transgender service members are brave patriots, not burdens or disruptions. The Defense Department has already extensively studied readiness issues concerning transgender people serving openly, so there is no reason to believe that this policy is anything other than blatant discrimination. To every transgender person in the United States: We see you, we love you, and we will never stop fighting for you.”
At the Equality Federation’s Leadership conference, members were quick to express outrage and disappointment in the President’s announcement. “The President’s statements harm brave service members and their families and damage our military,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation. ”As infuriating as President Trump’s statement is, I am inspired by the transgender veterans speaking out today against this injustice.”
Joanne Carroll is the President of Equality Pennsylvania’s Education Fund. She is transgender and a retired Master Sergeant of the Air Force where she served for 20 years, including time in Vietnam. “The President said he would be a best friend to our community, but day in and day out he has systematically done everything he can to disprove that. Just when transgender people were starting to feel recognized and safe enough to serve openly, he deflated that hope,” she said.
Jennifer Long, a member and longtime volunteer of Garden State Equality, is a transgender veteran who served 30 years in the Army as an infantry soldier. She was awarded a Bronze Star for her service in Afghanistan. “It’s shocking and disappointing. Essentially the President is trying to fire 15,000 service members who serve in all kinds of capacities. Job security is one of the things many service members count on to provide for themselves and their families, so these statements will cause a lot of stress,” she said.
Sheri Swokowski is a transgender retired Army Infantry Colonel and Vice Chair of Fair Wisconsin Education Fund. “I’m extremely disappointed and surprised that the leader of our military would think that transgender service members are not capable or worthy of serving this nation, especially since we’ve been doing so since the beginning. We’ve always been in the ranks. Every step of the way, as we’ve opened the military up, it’s exemplified how diversity adds the value of every organization. The largest employer in the nation, our military, should be an equal opportunity employer. There should be no place for discrimination in the military,” she said.
Giovanni Santiago, a transgender man who volunteered with Equality Ohio in Akron to pass local nondiscrimination protections inclusive of transgender people and who served in the Air Force for three and a half years, said, “I feel like that it is a travesty that transgender individuals can no longer serve in the military. It is in no way a reflection of their ability to serve but a blatant attack on their want for authenticity. So as not only a trans veteran myself––but as someone who has worked hard for the trans veteran community––I feel it is my duty to speak out and stand up for those who are not able.”
Steph White, Executive Director of Equality Michigan was a commander in the 2nd Infantry Division. “As a former military Commander in infantry divisions I learned, as all military leaders know, that soldiers come from all walks of life. But what we all have in common is the bravery to face challenges and the knowledge that we are all in the fight together. The only quality that really matters to a strong military is the tenacity and reliability of your teammates,” she said.