By Chase Strangio, Staff Attorney, ACLU LGBT & HIV Project
September 14, 2017
Imagine serving your country for over a decade in the armed forces — many of those years hiding the truth of who you are, but still showing up each day to fight for something bigger than yourself.
You put yourself on the line.
You depend on your service for your benefits, for your survival, for the survival of your family.
You plan your entire life around your career.
After years of committed service, the government finally changes policy and you can serve proudly and openly. You can be who you are and continue to thrive in your work. You don’t have to hide under the mask of an inauthentic self.
Then, in an instant, after you rely on assurances that your livelihood and existence will be safe, your government turns on you — in a tweet from your commander in chief, you are told that you cannot serve “in any capacity”; you are told that because you are transgender, everything about who you are and what you have done is irrelevant because you are not wanted. The entire country watches as you are humiliated and demeaned, and everyone is sent a message that somehow you are unworthy of even basic decency because of who you are.
This is what happened to transgender individuals in the United States armed forces.
For years, transgender individuals were barred from open military service based on outdated and outright incorrect views about what it means to be transgender. In 2016, after years of study and careful analysis, that ban on service was lifted, and a new policy allowing transgender individuals to serve openly in the Armed Forces was implemented.
But after a tweet from President Trump on July 26 and a subsequent directive signed on August 25, the Department of Defense was instructed by the president to reverse course and again ban transgender individuals from openly serving in the military. The directive also included banning coverage for medically necessary medical procedures and beginning a process of subjecting currently serving individuals to separation just for being transgender.
Pensions are on the line. Medical care is being cancelled. Enlistments are prohibited. People’s entire lives and careers are disrupted.