On July 26, we all woke up to the newest senseless tweet from President Trump: that transgender folks will no longer be allowed to serve in any capacity in the military because of the "medical costs and disruption" associated with transitioning.
So much for being a friend to the LGBTQ+ community, like he previously stated in a tweet while he was campaigning for the presidency.
While Trump stated that he consulted with military officials about this, the Pentagon — as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee — asserted that they have been blind sided by this tweet. He has given no indication when this supposed ban will begin, and he has not said how this ban will impact the thousands of trans people who are currently serving in the various branches of the military. In fact, as of right now, a recent study suggests that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 openly transgender individuals who are active-duty service members out of 1.3 million. What does this mean in terms of their military career? This ban is a major step back from the Obama era protections that ensure that trans folks can openly serve in our nation's military. In light of this upsetting news, here are the reactions of 8 trans college students in regards to Trump's tweet:
Cecily T., Junior, James Madison University
"It takes some special kind of messed up to reduce a person who is serving this country down to...medical costs. How disrespectful do you have to be to sit there and claim that they don't get to show their love for this country because they need hormones or testosterone or use the insurance for other medical costs?
Did your parents not teach you to respect those who serve? I have AMPLE respect for those who are willing to fight for THIS country. Regardless of gender. And the reduction of their bravery is disgusting. It's ridiculous.
Because it's not about medical costs. It was never about medical costs. Just like it was never about water fountains.
And I'm furious. I'm not mad at Trump anymore. I'm upset that we let this happen. I'm upset that it's gone this far. And there are people out there who will clap and cheer; they have that right. But at the end of this long hot day THEY got discriminated from jobs and now insurance. They got robbed because you're prejudice. And you're confused. And for some reason, you can't mind your own damn business.
I'm not mad at Trump anymore. I'm furious at the administration, and all those people who thought a third party was a better choice. I'm furious at the people who voted for 'Harambe' and 'deez nutz.' I'm furious at the people who, while they had access, didn't research this person before they voted. I'm furious at the people who just didn't vote. I'm furious at the people who didn't care then but care now because their partner is a trans individual in the military.
I'm. LIVID. But at the end of the day, that doesn't change anything."
Cecily's pronouns are she/her/hers and they/them/theirs.
Whitney B., Junior, Ohio University
"At this point, why would I want to fight with and for a country who literally doesn't care if we are brutally killed and they are the ones doing it to us. Every day, trans folks live in fear of basic necessities. We can't even go into a bathroom to take a sh*t. So why would I fight with people who I'm not too sure wouldn't openly kill me in battle and it be ruled an 'accident' if they had the chance."
Whitney's pronouns are they/them/theirs.
Michele O., Sophomore, Ramapo College
"Anyone who uses the term 'distraction' when referring to trans people is not only enforcing the idea that trans people are like a separate species and do not look like the rest of humans, but also that everyone will have sexual feelings towards someone with the 'opposite body.' News flash, gay people have been in the military for many decades. Do people think they wouldn't have sexual distractions from seeing troops of their own gender naked or semi naked constantly? No, but at the same time, gay people are not going to have sex with all these people constantly because the purpose of them being there is to train and go off to war. My point is is that nobody will care what your body looks like or what your gender or sexual orientation is as long as you are doing your job, respecting others, and servicing the country. There are already trans people who are in the military and struggle with not only seeing their family and going through rigorous training/war, but also with legal identity issues, the fear of being outed to transphobic soldiers, and now what the administration will decide on this 'problem.' I honestly give all these trans troops my respect and a huge thank you for their bravery and their service."
Michele's pronouns are she/her/hers.
Michael B., Sophomore, Washington and Lee University
"I woke up to notifications from almost all my friends. 'Did you hear what Trump did?' 'Did you read this article?' Of course, they were talking about Trump's ban on transgender people in the military. As much as I appreciate everybody's concern, everybody who knows me knows I have no interest in joining the military. Don't get me wrong, this issue is very concerning to me and I will not stand for it, and I am more than willing to provide my side of the issue, but I can't help but feel tokenized when everybody immediately looks to me for this 'all-knowing insight on the trans perspective.' I'm by no means qualified to discuss transgender experience in the military, and I cannot speak to any complexities that may lie in that issue; yet still, I'm the one that all my friends are turning to for insight on this issue.
On my thoughts on the issue itself, the arguments Trump is making to justify his actions seem very ill-founded from an outside perspective. It is downright irresponsible for a president to say that we as a nation cannot have transgender people in the military because of medical costs. Medical costs completely vary by individual, and I'm not an expert, but can be pretty sure that there are medical costs for other things in the military that much or surpass whatever Trump is deeming 'transgender medical costs.'
Then there's the idea that this ban is because of 'disruption that transgender in the military would entail.' I quite honestly don't even know where to start with this one. What I take from this is the ideology that transphobic people have more power than transgender people. It is giving transphobic people to say that the presence of transgender people makes them uncomfortable and for that reason, transgender people are banned from the military. I've been told by many people in my life who served that when you are in battle, it doesn't matter who is next to you as long as they have your back. I suppose this is now 'it doesn't matter who they are as long as they are the gender that they were assigned at birth.' With this kind of ideology floating around the military, it's a miracle that any transgender people would even want to fight for our country. To close, in the words of Dr. Jonathan Paul, 'Why would you fight for a country that ain't got the interest in fighting to save you?'"
Michael's pronouns are they/them/theirs.
*James A., Junior, Lehigh University
"I think this is such a multi-faceted injustice. I know so many young trans people who would have been proud to serve in the military, for starters. If Trump has his way, they won't be granted that honor. Trump, in his statement, is also blatantly accusing transgender people, and our health care, a 'burden.' Transgender people are not a burden on society; we aren't just weight that you need to drag along. Trans people deserve health care. Even if it comes at a cost to the military that they are giving their service, and even their lives, to. And lastly, I hope that Trump comes to recognize and respect the transgender veterans who have given much to this country. I never, ever want to hear that the President of the United States has disrespected members of the United States Military, regardless of gender identity. I would hope for so much better."
James' pronouns are he/him/his.
Arielle G., Junior, Ramapo College
"I am absolutely appalled by Trump's tweets about taking away the right of transgender folks to serve in the U.S. military. When he ran, though I knew he wasn't actively supportive of the LGBTQIA+ community and had many appalling views, I thought there was a chance that he might leave LGBTQIA+ rights alone since he ran under the false claim that he is a' real friend' of the community. I thought he might want to keep up that illusion for a little bit longer, even if that meant simply not stripping rights away from members of the community. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by anything he does anymore, but that doesn't make this any less upsetting. After years of fighting for our rights and gaining many, it's really scary and sad to see the Bully in Chief swoop in and begin to take rights away. We have to resist, though. Now more than ever, we have to band together as a community and fight back. We will not let him bring us down."
Arielle's pronouns are she/her/hers.
Rory B., Junior, University of Kentucky
"Joke's on him. Most of us probably don't want to be part of his imperialist, neoliberal, fascist killing machine anyway. I feel for the folks who depend on the military benefits for a college education and a means to support their families/communities. The same goes for the folks who are already enlisted who are either out and have to go back into the closet or who may have been about to come out and now have to stay in the closet."
Rory's pronouns are he/him/his.
Nat V., Junior, University of Delaware
"This is a complex issue to touch on for me because I personally am not pro-military, for countless reasons. However, despite not subscribing to the various violences that a militaristic presence allows for, I know simply that what Trump is doing goes against everything this country supposedly stands for. Any time you feel the need to 'ban' an entire group of people from participating in aspects of your nation's supposed growth, you need to sit down and reassess your reasoning.
It's clear to me that Trump and his team have not done that at all. It's clear to me that Trump and his team have not done their research. It's clear to me that they have not even been taught how to do research in order to find evidence to support their claims — a practice that millions of college students in America are paying tens of thousands of dollars to learn how to do, that millions of high school students are being taught how to do. Yet, the 'leader' of this nation seems to believe that simply agreeing with someone else on your staff about something means you can make life-changing decisions, decisions that potentially put people in very real, very severe danger. This is irresponsible; this is harmful; this is violence. There is absolutely no excuse for this type of decision.
We have the money in the military to help all of the diverse bodies that serve within it in whatever way they need. If Trump truly cared about our military, he would allocate more money for ALL the service people in it, to help take care of them, since they are all being deeply underserved by their government — NOT by removing an entire vital population of the military, ultimately weakening it overall. There's no basis to assess transgender people as a distraction; this is just as grotesque as saying that allowing women to serve is a distraction. There is no research to support this. We do know historically that when we allow more diverse bodies to come together to overcome obstacles, we improve both in morale and in our ability to effect change in positive ways."
Nat's pronouns are she/her/hers, he/him/his and they/them/theirs.
What I find most upsetting, as well as dangerous, about the President's tweet is that it implies that trans people are a burden to society. The tweet asserts that the military should not be held responsible for the "tremendous" cost of transition related medical care. However, it is important to point out that there is a study that shows these medical expenses would amount to a maximum of 8.4 million dollars, while medical costs related to erectile dysfunction medications, such as Viagra, amount to 84 million dollars annually — ten times to cost of transition-related medical care. Transitioning is just as, if not more, important to people as treating erectile dysfunction, which makes me wonder what this ban is really about.
- If you ask me, Trump is simply trying to satisfy the most conservative members of his party. This isn't about the cost of a trans person deciding to medically transition while fighting for our country, this is about hating a group of people simply because of who they are. Is this really what America is about — uplifting the voices of the hateful? I used to not think so, but now I'm not so sure. But I digress, what keeps me going is the idea that progress is not linear, and maybe the backlash toward Trump's tweet will propel us forward as a nation.
*A name has been changed to protect the identity of the contributor.
Author's note: Some quotes have been edited for clarity.
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