Transgender people are twice as likely as the general population to serve in the military. Yet, they cannot do so openly. This could all change in the coming months, as the Pentagon announced in July 2015 its plans to repeal the ban on transgender troops. Despite the ground gained by the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” many transgender service members fear not only discharge, but also verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Furthermore, many gay, lesbian, and bisexual members of the military must still lie about who they are to protect themselves from a culture with a 200-year long history of discrimination.
The military’s ban of transgender people is not a matter of legislation, but one of medical code. These regulations give the military the freedom to exclude on the basis of so-called “psychosexual disorders,” which includes being transgender and even cross-dressing. And although the Department of Defense extends benefits to same-sex partners of service members, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not. Thus, tens of thousands of gay and transgender veterans are denied fair compensation for their service.
We need to give a damn. Because although gay troops are now allowed to serve openly, they are denied equal treatment and benefits. Because gay and transgender troops still live and serve in fear of violence and discrimination from their very own brothers and sisters in arms. No one should be barred the honor of defending their country because of their gender identity. What kind of nation are we creating when we exclude a group of people from protecting and serving their country? And what kind of future are we creating when we withhold from our young people the world of opportunities the military offers?
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