The ability to serve in the military should not be hindered by gender identity, and the proposed transgender military ban in July 2017 and a proposed policy in March 2018 point to a greater problem with acceptance of LGBT people in the military.
On March 24, President Trump approved policies where transgender people who have undergone transition cannot serve in the military, with the Pentagon making exceptions as it sees fit. These recommendations from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis are a response to the unlikelihood of a full ban on transgender soldiers being passed.
As of Jan. 1, the Department of Defense began accepting openly transgender people as recruits, but this new restriction is contradictory and could possibly deter even more people from joining.
According to a 2016 report from the Department of Defense, women make up 17.2 percent of the total military force (active duty and selected reserve members) and men 82.8 percent. There is not an exact figure for the number of transgender people serving in the military, but according to a 2016 study by RAND, there are approximately 2,450 transgender personnel in active duty and 1,510 in selected reserve. This makes up less than 1 percent of the total population of the military, so restricting the ability for these individuals to serve openly seems excessive.
These sorts of policies regarding the LGBT community and the military are not new. There have been outright bans and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the 1990s, where the entire LGBT community was affected, whereas these newer policies are specifically regarding transgender people.
Despite the great social changes that have happened in the last few decades, such as the legalization of gay marriage, this new proposal is a mechanism for moving society back again.
Making people feel unwelcome when they are willing to make huge sacrifices is a harmful precedent to set. Instead of restricting people from enlisting, including as many fit and healthy individuals in the military can ensure that people who truly want to serve have the ability to do so.
Attitudes toward LGBT people are more negative in the south than in other regions of the United States. According to GLAAD, the percentage of southern discomfort toward LGBT-related scenarios, like attending a same-sex wedding, is higher than the percentage of national discomfort. With a lower likelihood of being accepted, southerners who are LGBT and interested in serving in the military may feel more uncomfortable being themselves.
The United States must support legislation that encourages involvement in the military from those who want to serve, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. With harmful legislation such as the transgender-ban policy from President Trump, people who identify as LGBT may feel discouraged and unsafe participating in the military.