Maria M. Silva, Staff Writer
On March 24, a new military policy was signed by President Trump’s administration that aims to exclude thousands of transgender soldiers from serving in the military.
Trump first announced the decision in July 2017 and justified the move by saying transgender people in the military would entail “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” The ban is set to target not only transgender individuals looking to enlist but also those who are already serving.
Daniel Tagliarina, a government and politics professor at UC, explained that the ban has to do with excluding those soldiers “who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or require special medical needs,” such as surgery or medication.
Gender dysphoria (GD) “is one of the acknowledged psychological disorders which conflicts with one’s biological gender compared to the gender that person identifies with,” Tagliarina clarified.
Per The New York Times, the memo that President Trump signed plans to exclude soldiers with history of diagnosed gender dysphoria from the military, “except under limited circumstances,” which will be up to the Pentagon’s decision.
The policy relied on a study led by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis as results found that individuals diagnosed with the symptoms of gender dysphoria, who therefore “may require substantial medical treatment, including medical drugs or surgery, present considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”
Other studies conducted under the direction of Vice President Mike Pence “seemed to suggest that gender dysphoria would lead to mental stress that we do not want troops to go through,” Tagliarina said. However, he added, that there have been a large number of studies which stated that transgender conditions do not affect military readiness and cohesion.
Trump’s thoughts on a transgender military ban first started in July when he expressed on Twitter that, in the future, the military will no longer rely on the service of transgender troops.
Soon after the president’s announcement, several cases were taken to court citing Trump’s tweet and eventually found that “the ban is unconstitutional, arguing that the executive power is not allowed to make policy through Twitter,” Tagliarina added.
In the meantime, the challenges are currently put on transgender soldiers.
Tagliarina claimed that if the ban goes forward, and transgenders get excluded from the military, they would lose benefits, and eventually, losing thousands of soldiers could also affect troop readiness.
Tagliarina also stated that the requirements for the legal implementation of the transgender military ban would entail the need for “actual scientific evidence to support it, the feasibility to enforce it, and finally, the policy should address real concerns of troop readiness.”
But, how does the transgender military ban fit into the supreme Law of the Land?
“Our Constitution doesn’t exactly offer equal protection, but basically the principles of equal protection and due process would be violated by targeting a group for discriminatory purposes without exceedingly justifying it,” Tagliarina said.
According to Luke Perry, a professor and chair for the Department of Government and Politics, the history of transgenders serving in the military is short since being allowed “to serve freely and openly since 2016.”
Perry also noted that Trump’s new move on transgender rights is being stalled by an injunction as federal courts evaluate its legality.
“There are different opinions on the impact of transgender people in the military,” Perry said. “The president believes their presence negatively effects morale and increases healthcare costs. However, critics contend transgender people have served with distinction and point to external analysis that suggest the impact on readiness and cost is minimal.”
Michelle Rodríguez is a foreign language student at UC and also a transgender female. Rodríguez is also the first transgender female to be involved in a national sorority as well as the first transgender athlete at UC, participating on the track and field team.
“I think that if anyone wants to be in the military they have the right to,” Rodriguez said. “The path that the Trump administration has taken concerning transgender rights feels like we are going backwards instead of advancing forward. The transgender community has been fighting for their rights for a while, and we don’t know what the next policy targeting transgender people is going to be.”
As for the difficulties that transgenders face in the process of either hormone therapy or surgery, Rodríguez explained that “everyone handles their situation differently” as some may stay with their assigned sex at birth and others may get surgery to change the organs they were born with.
“However, mentally, it does take a toll on you,” Rodríguez said.“As a transgender person, you go through a lot of judgement.”
Besides the difficulties, Rodríguez said that transgender people can do the same work that other people do. The difference is that being under hormone and transitioning treatments can be a difficult process.
To cope with the psychological effects, Rodriguez said having counselors to help transgenders would be very helpful. However, the junior stated that mental health professionals would not only be beneficial for transgenders soldiers, but also for those dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is common among troops.
“People who experience gender dysphoria or PTSD need psychological help, so having counselors would bring more equality for everyone,” Rodríguez said.
During the sex reassignment treatment, Rodríguez added that the hardest thing is finding people who are accepting, non-judgemental and will support you through the process no matter what.
“The path that transgender people choose is a hard one,” Rodriguez said. “And, you have to be a strong individual to be able to go through all of that.”