The Pentagon (the US Department of Defence) has officially repealed Donald Trump’s trans military ban, which was first announced by the ex-President on Twitter in 2017, and subsequently came into effect in 2019.
The policies—which were announced on Wednesday, March 31—will come into effect on April 30, implementing President Biden’s executive order which lifted Trump’s ban. The policies ban discrimination based on gender identity, and make gender recognition and medically necessary transition available to all service members, once all qualifying criteria are met.
In announcing the ban via Twitter in 2017, Trump articulated that: “Our [US] military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
While the repeal of this ban was not unexpected, it is a significant moment for reflection on what this ban, and its repeal, means for the trans community in the US, and the LGBTQ+ community worldwide.
The ban itself was naturally a symptom of Trump’s era as President, which saw the rise in revocation of several civil rights provisions, particularly as they relate to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) and members of the LGBTQ+ community in the United States. However, as has been commented on by several queer activists since the ban came into effect, the question remains of what role LGBTQ+ people should play in the continuation of the US military-industrial complex.
Trans Activist Isa Noyola spoke out about this issue on Twitter, arguing that we must create a world “that does not relate and confuse our right to exist as trans ppl with the state exploiting our bodies for war and destruction.” Noyola also argued that the LGBTQ+ community must look beyond basic equality and towards real liberation.
A Thread 1/5 – Winning non discrimination in the military is NOT a win for trans liberation. It’s just a win to strengthen and preserve US hegemonic forces under the guise of spreading “democracy” & “freedom”. 🏳️⚧️#TransMilitaryBan
— Isa 🐜 (@muxerisa) January 25, 2021
Similarly, when President Biden announced his plans to repeal the ban, many trans people took to Twitter to express their concerns over what appears to be the opportunity for assimilation rather than liberation for the LGBTQ+ community.
As writer Polly Anna Rocha articulated in a now viral tweet: “As a Trans person, I would like to ban the military.”
as a trans person, i would like to ban the military. ☝🏼😌🚫
— Eden Puthie (@JazzCochina) January 25, 2021
Importantly, and while many people in the LGBTQ+ community understand the military to be fundamentally at odds with queer values, the US military does provide essential employment for many transgender Americans. In fact, transgender people are twice as likely to serve in the military as their cisgender counterparts, despite a 2020 study revealing that almost 60% of LGBTQ+ people serving in the military did not feel comfortable being out at work.
So why then is the US military widely accepted as being the largest employer of transgender Americans? According to former soldier and trans woman, Paige Kreisman, young trans people are coerced into enlisting due to poverty and abusive home lives. Speaking on the podcast Gender Reveal last year, she argued that the military recruits “by preying on marginalised and disadvantaged young people”. Kreisman believes that the trans liberation movement and anti-militarism go hand in hand, but explained how joining the army is the only option for some trans people.
Fundamentally, while the trans military ban was unjustifiable, its revocation by the Biden administration and now the Pentagon speaks to a larger issue around trans liberation, with a large percentage of transgender Americans being forced into service by lack of opportunity, and open discrimination in other areas.
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