On April 12, a new Defense Department policy went into effect officially barring most transgender people from enlisting in the nation’s military. This is a sad development, and represents an attack on the values and liberties that we all cherish as Americans.
After two years of court challenges and public controversy since President Trump announced his plan, the policy as implemented says transgender people can serve only if they haven’t surgically transitioned to another gender or received hormone treatment. This rules out lots of people: Approximately 15,000 current troops identify as transgender. Regardless of your personal views on gender issues, we should all acknowledge that these 15,000 individuals selflessly signed up to risk their lives for America.
America isn’t just a country—it’s an experiment. The United States is seen as a global beacon of freedom, the light at the end of a tunnel, a nation that stands up for inalienable individual liberty. While imperfect, America has been known as the country of freedom, opportunity, and justice for centuries. Today, America remains the nation of free speech, a nation with marriage equality, and a place where we strive to give all people the opportunity to pursue the life they’ve always dreamed of. It’s supposed to be the nation where religious persecution by the government is non-existent, and the first country to truly give individual liberty a chance—and there’s no reason why that ideal should stop with transgender people.
Banning transgender individuals from serving their own country is unnecessary, humiliating, and counterproductive. One of the main arguments against allowing transgender individuals into the military is the question of the financial cost for the transition—who is going to pay for it? Will it be taxpayers? But the ban would also prevent those who have already received medical treatment.
And a 2018 report by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation revealed the United States spends $610 billion annually on defense spending, more than the next seven countries combined. Yet there is little to no outrage from conservatives regarding the insane amount of tax dollars that go toward defense spending—except for the minuscule portion that goes to transgender troops’ healthcare.
So it really shouldn’t be controversial to denounce the Trump administration’s ban, regardless of political or religious affiliations. Yes, the transgender troops that are currently serving will be allowed to do so, but what about the future ones denied the opportunity to do so simply because of gender identity? Transgender people already face enough conflict, stress, and social rejection for expressing themselves in atypical ways.
Democrats have taken the lead as the main allies of this cause. On Twitter, prominent Democrat leaders like Senator Tammy Baldwin, Congressman Joe Kennedy III, and even former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams have joined publicly condemned this shameful policy. But this issue shouldn’t just outrage members from one political tribe. Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents should be a part of the coalition against the ban, if they truly care about respecting individual liberty as they claim.
Under one flag, we are all Americans. It shouldn’t be about gay against straight, white against black, rich against poor, transgender against the rest. Embracing our differences is precisely what makes this country exceptional, a country where we strive to give people of every identity and background equal opportunity. So transgender individuals, especially those who serve under our flag for our freedoms, deserve our full support—not a cruel rejection.
Charlie Gers (@CharlieGers) is a Young Voices contributor and a Midwest Regional Director at Students For Liberty.