Under the cover of darkness, late on a Friday night, the White House released an updated memo on its policy for transgender service members. It essentially doubled-down on the August 2017 release, saying that transgender service members are not welcome in today’s military.
The latest memo is not only shocking, but utterly unfounded. Research has found that allowing transgender service members to serve openly has little to no impact on unit cohesion or readiness. And both the American Psychiatric Association and American Psychological Association, representing some of the leading mental health experts in the nation, have voiced dissent about DoD’s claims that transgender service members cannot serve due to their mental health. In fact, most research has shown the opposite: not all transgender persons need treatment, but for those that do, it can be safe and effective.
While the news is certainly disappointing and disheartening, it cannot be implemented immediately. There are still multiple lawsuits against the original ban, and the Department of Defense (DoD) is currently abiding by those court-ordered injunctions. So it’s unclear when, and even if, this new memo will be implemented.
But the uncertainty is the problem. Our men and women in uniform all over the world deserve better. They deserve sound, thoughtful policy that is carried out respectfully. From the July 2017 tweet to the Friday night roll out, this policy change has been far from thoughtful and far from respectful. The Friday night release set the stage for thousands of active duty transgender service members around the world to wake up Saturday morning to uncertainty. Do they report for duty? Are they out of a job?
If nothing else, that’s a readiness issue; it’s also a national security issue. And that’s exactly what the DoD tells us they are trying prevent by creating a “lethal and ready force.”
If there is a silver lining in this policy, it’s this: it appears from the DoD memo released in tandem with the White House memo that those transgender service members currently serving will be protected under this new policy, and they will not have to fear being discharged for their gender identity.
However, DoD does appear to be closing its doors to the next generation of service members. In an era when so few people volunteer to serve, no American who is willing and able to wear the uniform should be turned away. About 70% of the traditionally recruitable age, 17-24, aren’t eligible to serve because of weight or education or other issues. Now, we are putting more restrictions and policies in place that may shrink that pool of young recruits even more.
Here at IAVA, we believe equality is a force-multiplier. In July of last year, IAVA was one of the few veterans organizations to oppose the transgender policy reversal announced by the White House. We have been fighting for months to #LetThemServe and watching with a close eye as the original transgender ban was struck down in multiple courts.
To see the White House essentially double-down on this harmful policy is disheartening. But IAVA and others will continue to fight for equality for the thousands of service members currently serving around the world and those that have begun the process of entering service. Today, and always, we have your back.
IAVA is here to help. If you need help navigating these new policies, reach out to our RRRP team here. To see all that IAVA is doing to advocate for those that have and are serving, check out our Policy Agenda.