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UPDATE: Trans Military Service in the United States

On Tuesday, January 22 the US Supreme Court lifted a number of lower court injunctions that were preventing President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender military service from going into effect. In brief, here’s where things stand:

  • The ban still has not gone into effect, because the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision yesterday did not cover all of the various injunctions that had been filed. However, it is likely that those injunctions will be lifted as well.
  • Yesterday’s decision is not the final word on the matter – The SCOTUS decision to lift the injunctions means that the ban can go into effect while its legality is being decided in the courts. It’s not clear if or when the Supreme Court will ultimately make a final decision on the ban.
  • The Trump Administration will likely be able to begin taking action against transgender members of the military soon, at least temporarily.

It’s worthwhile to step back and look at how things got to this point. In 2016, the Obama Administration moved to change the previous policy, which gave military commanders broad discretion to discharge trans troops at will. Based on numerous studies, including a major report by the Palm Center in 2014, the Obama Administration concluded that their were no compelling reasons to prevent transgender people from serving in the military.

Unfortunately, in 2017 President Trump moved to reverse this policy, based on outdated, incorrect, and flawed assumptions about transgender people and their ability to serve in the military. Trump argued that allowing trans people to openly serve in the military would be massively expensive and hamper the fighting effectiveness of the US military. There is no compelling evidence to support his assertions. In fact, according to a 2016 study by the Rand Corporation, the costs of providing gender-affirming care to trans troops would be minimal. In addition, transgender folks are already openly serving in the military in nations including Israel, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and there is no evidence that their presence has harmed military readiness in those countries.

The Trump Administration’s attacks on transgender troops are part of a larger effort to roll back recent gains not just in the area of trans rights, but also LGBTQ+ rights in general. His efforts to drive trans members of the military into the closet, and to prevent trans folks from joining the military, are not just immediately harmful to those directly impacted. Even if you are a trans person who has no plans to join the military, Trump’s campaign to ban trans folks is part of a larger effort to strip basic rights away from our community and mark us as second-class citizens.

The good news is that the fight against this ban, and the fight to preserve and expand trans rights, is far from over. The Institute will continue its efforts to educate individuals and institutions on how to create affirming and welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ people (and why they should), and Equitas Health will continue its efforts on behalf of trans folks, LGBTQ+ people, and all marginalized communities in Ohio and beyond. If you’d like to lend financial support to what we do, you can donate to Equitas Health, or you can donate directly to the Institute.

If you have any questions about the Institute or the services we provide, please send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

-RP