* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.The U.S. transgender military ban sits upon a bed of mistruths and is constructed from discrimination, myths, bigotry, and fear
Jennifer Peace is a captain currently serving in the U.S. Army
April 12 marks the day when the military ban on transgender Americans comes into effect, and I have run out of words to explain how devastating this will be to our national security interests.
All I have left is my story as a transgender woman, and the stories of thousands of others like me, that have yet to be told. When facing one of the largest and most powerful organisations in the world it may not be much, but it is the only thing that remains.
The policy that is set to go into effect will immediately prevent all transgender individuals from joining the military, despite the past three years of successful open service that all five service chiefs have gone on the record as saying have been “without incident”.
The foundation sits upon a bed of mistruths and is constructed from discrimination, myths, bigotry, and fear. The other pillars initially claimed – cost, readiness, and morale – were all destroyed during the House Armed Service Subcommittee testimony just a few weeks ago.
The U.S. Department of Defense claimed the cost was too high, but we now know it was less than one-third of what was originally estimated and totalled $8 million over 36 months. It was said that the impact to readiness would be far too high, but again we now know the average transgender service member incurred less than four months of non-deployability during their transition.
And finally we were told the blow to unit morale would be significant, but it has yet to manifest in any way. Worse for the defense of the policy is that the Undersecretary of Defense confirmed during testimony that if a transgender individual who required no medical treatment, would require zero days of lost readiness, and could exceed every single physical standard were to attempt to join, they would be denied entrance.
This is nothing less than a ban on service.
I have served for nearly 15 years in the army as a military intelligence officer. I have deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, commanded a headquarters company, and worked strategic issues at the Defense Intelligence Agency.
I know that I have contributed to the readiness and lethality of the army, and will continue to do so as a proud transgender American. It is precisely because I love our country and military so much that I am deeply troubled to see this policy go into effect.
In 1940, the Defense Department said of black American integration into the military, “We dare not confuse the issue of prompt preparedness with a new social experiment however important and desirable it may be.”
Before women could serve in the military, a government report stated that, “Risking the lives of a military unit in combat to provide career opportunities or accommodate the personal desires or interests of an individual, or group of individuals, is more than bad military judgment. It is morally wrong.”
When gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans asked to openly serve their country, we were told that it would “cause an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline and unit cohesion that are absolutely essential to effective combat capability”.
Soon, the statements made against transgender service will be added to these in the ash heap of history, words we study with shame and regret, lest we continue to make the same mistakes.
April 12 will not be a day the military reflects on with pride. It will not be a day that everyone qualified, capable, and willing to serve their country is allowed without baseless discrimination. But it is also not the day transgender service ends.
This is simply the beginning of a new fight.