Transgender soldiers should be respected

William Wehrs 

wiwehrs@ursinus.edu 

On April 12, 2019, the United States Supreme Court ruled to uphold President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender civilians serving in the military. According to CBS News, the defense department estimates that this ban could affect nearly 15,000 troops. Both Trump’s bigoted ban and the court ruling, which reinforces it, ignore numerous studies that show transgender soldiers have no effect on the efficiency of a unit. For example, a study by the RAND corporation concluded that “in no case was there any evidence of an effect on the operational effectiveness, operational readiness, or cohesion of the force.” 

Additionally, when the ban was first announced, 56 retired admirals and generals signed a letter objecting to it, since the ban “would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non- transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.” Indeed, the effect of this ban will also be highly problematic when one considers the mental toll it will take on soldiers serving. Essentially, the current policy is similar to the 1990s and 2000s policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “The Guardian” spoke to Kara Corcoran, a captain in the U.S. Army, who spoke frankly about the effect that coming out as trans had on her psyche: “I cannot explain to you how much more mentally sound and even more physically fit I am today than I was a year ago” she said. But under the Trump administration’s ban, future soldiers in Corcoran’s position might not have the privilege of being able to openly come out.

The ban also does a great dis-service to the notable transgender soldiers who have fought for the United States. Likely one of the first transgender soldiers was Polish cavalryman Casimir Pulaski, who fought in the American Revolution. Researchers have confirmed that Pulaski’s body, specifically their pelvis, suggests that he was born with ambiguous genitalia. Yet, Pulaski never identified as a woman. Charles Merbs, a forensic anthropologist at Arizona State University, commented to “The Guardian,” “I don’t think, at any time in his life, did he think he was a woman,” Merbs said. “I think he just thought he was a man, and something was wrong.” Pulaski was integral in training the American cavalry, and his unit played a key role in protecting the Continental Army’s retreat from the Battle of Brandywine. 

If people are willing to serve, we should let them serve openly. Doing so not only makes their own lives easier, but also honors the transgender soldiers who preceded them in fighting, and sometimes dying, for our country. 

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