OPINION: The U.S. Supreme Court stood up for LGBT+ workers. But I’m still banned from the military

by Nicolas Talbott | Blogger
Wednesday, 17 June 2020 16:18 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: Nicholas Bade, 37, who is among the transgender Americans who this month can enlist openly in the U.S. military for the first time after courts blocked President Donald Trump's effort to re-establish a ban on transgender service members, poses outside a recruitment center in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., January, 4, 2018. Photo taken January 4, 2018. REUTERS/Chris Kenning

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The United States Supreme Court ruled that workers are protected from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, but Trump's administration still bans transgender people from the military

Nicolas Talbott is an aspiring service member challenging the Trump administration’s transgender military ban in federal court. He lives in Lisbon, Ohio

On Monday, in a historic win for the LGBT+ community, the Supreme Court ruled that American workers are protected from discrimination based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. The ruling affirms that LGBT+ people are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of sex. 

I was actually about to leave for work when I heard the news, and it’s hard to describe the rush of emotions I felt. For the first time ever, I left for work knowing my job couldn’t be taken away from me just because I’m transgender.

In my home state of Ohio, there are no statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBT+ people. Before the court’s ruling, I could have been fired or denied employment opportunities or promotions simply because of who I am, regardless of my ability to do the job.

I am thrilled and relieved for not only myself, but for the LGBT+ community as a whole, knowing that we can no longer be denied employment simply based on who we are.

But that happiness and relief was also paired with an undeniable frustration.

While I’m incredibly relieved to now have these workplace protections, I’ve also had the devastating experience of being told by my government that I can’t do a job I’m qualified for just because I am trans. I’m still currently barred from fulfilling my career goal of service with our country’s largest employer, the military. 

Ever since I was a little kid, I have wanted to join the military. I’ve trained and prepared for years to enlist, working closely with military recruiters, participating in my school’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, studying global security issues and training to remain physically ready.

But after President Trump announced a ban on trans service members, I’ve had to defer those dreams. So I’m continuing to fight this harmful ban however I can, including in the courts.

Seeing the Supreme Court recognize trans Americans as equal members of society protected from discrimination does give me hope that someday soon my dream will come true - that I won’t have to keep waiting, as so many of my neighbors and friends I grew up with join the military and deploy.

Many legal experts were surprised that even some of the Court’s traditionally conservative justices sided with the LGBT+ community in this ruling. But for me, it wasn’t as big of a surprise. I live in a largely conservative, rural part of Ohio, and I’ve seen firsthand so many in my community accept me for who I am and, frankly, be confused by efforts to keep trans people like me from doing jobs we’re completely qualified for.

We certainly have a long way to go on LGBT+ rights and wider understanding in my town and in towns all across the United States, but we’re making important progress. 

Neighbors and friends of all political views have expressed support for my goal of serving in the military. Even my most conservative neighbors recognize that my being trans doesn't make me any less capable of serving my country.

And Monday’s Supreme Court ruling makes that clear as well. When my case moves to trial, I’m hopeful the federal judges presiding over it will follow the Supreme Court’s example and recognize that discrimination against trans people is unlawful.

The military holds up as principles valuing diversity in its ranks, and measuring soldiers on what they can do, not who they are, where they come from or what they look like. All I want is a chance to be judged for what I can do and be able to serve my country. 

This week’s ruling gives me not only cause to celebrate, but renewed determination to continue to fight so everyone who is qualified and wants to serve in the U.S. military can do so.

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