Breaking Down the Transgender Military Ban

Update: This article was originally written in response to a New York Times article profiling a potential executive order banning transgender people from serving in the military. On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court upheld the ban by a vote of 5-4. This article has been updated to reflect those developments. If this topic is triggering for you, text a Crisis Counselor at 741741 or click the mobile text button below. You’re not alone.

On January 22, 2019, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that they would uphold a ban limiting transgender people from joining the military. The ban doesn’t remove currently serving members from their post, but does block those not serving in their “biological sex” from joining. This comes after a June 2016 decision that allowed transgender members to serve openly.

What Does It Mean to Be Transgender?

Transgender is an umbrella term for those whose gender differs than their sex assigned at birth. Genderqueer, genderfluid, and gender non-binary are just some of the identities along the transgender spectrum. Gender identity is not related to sexual identity. Someone who is transgender can fall anywhere along the sexuality spectrum (straight, gay, bisexual, pansexual etc.).

How the Transgender Community is Responding

Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ+ civil rights group, released a statement regarding the ban: “For more than 30 months, transgender troops have been serving our country openly with valor and distinction, but now the rug has been ripped out from under them, once again. We will redouble our efforts to send this discriminatory ban to the trash heap of history where it belongs.”

Protecting Transgender Rights

The news comes at a time when there is an increase around the struggles facing the the trans community. Some of these struggles include:

Lack of Legal Protections

There are very few national policies protecting people based on their gender identity. According to the Human Rights Campaign, only 19 states prohibit employment and housing discrimination, 18 states prohibit public accommodation discrimination, and 16 states prohibit education discrimination based on gender identity.

Identity Documents

Identity documents present one of the biggest institutional problems facing trans people. Laws vary from state to state, with some states flat out refusing to issue new documents based on gender identity. Among those that do allow it, many require evidence of medical transition. These surgeries are often expensive and may not be part of an individual’s transition plan. Without an accurate piece of identification, it can be hard for trans people to travel, apply for a job, enroll in school, or engage in many aspects of daily life.

Harassment and Stigma

Though there has been increased visibility surrounding trans issues, many trans people face severe levels of harassment and stigma. Trans individuals are at a significantly higher risk for bullying and violence. This can have serious negative effects on mental health. Recent research found that over half of trans male and nonbinary youth had attempted suicide during their lifetime. Trans youth are also at a significantly higher risk of experiencing depression, anxiety, and issues with self-harm.

Barriers to Healthcare

Little research has been conducted on the health disparities among trans people. Trans people struggle to find doctors who are competent in trans health issues, particularly in rural areas. Some trans people have even reported being denied coverage because of their gender identity.

How to Support the Transgender Community

News like this can be devastating for those who are simply trying to be themselves. In order to support those affected by this ban, focus on being a good ally to the trans community. Not sure where to start? Here are some of the recommendations we’re giving our Crisis Counselors:

  • Don’t assume pronouns. If you’re unsure about someone’s pronouns, ask, rather than pushing them into an identity they aren’t comfortable with. If you need clarification on something, respectfully ask. The person will tell you as much or as little as they feel comfortable with.
  • No probing. Avoid probing questions such as, “What kind of trans are you?” and ”Have you had the surgery?” The trans experience is different for each person, and doesn’t fit into one mold.
  • Validate their experience. Trans people experience marginalization and abuse just for being who they are. Listening doesn’t require labels—simply demonstrate that you understand and accept them for who they are.

Ready to put these skills to the test? Consider applying to be a Crisis Counselor. Everyone deserves to be themselves. If the news is making it hard for you, don’t be afraid to take a break. Step away from social media. Text one of our Crisis Counselors at 741741. We’re here to support you.

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