The President once again demonstrated his disdain for civil rights and his penchant for authoritarianism on Friday when he signed a presidential memo prohibiting transgender Americans from serving in the military. The directive, supposedly based on economic grounds, is a fundamental denial of the humanity of transgender individuals.
In addition to barring transgender individuals from joining the military, the memorandum calls for “halt[ing] the use of DoD (Department of Defense) or DHS (Department of Homeland Security) resources to fund” surgical procedures for transgender military personnel “except to the extent necessary to protect the health of an individual who has begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex.”
In other words, the president greedily proposes the government compensate transgender service members for their tremendous sacrifice by providing the minimum amount health care deemed "necessary."
Moreover, this particular provision’s language is so vague that it leaves a terrifying amount of gray area to deny a variety of treatments to transgender military personnel. So long as a service can be construed as not “necessary to protect the health of an individual” already on “a course of treatment to reassign his or her sex,” it may be withheld.
Thus, in addition to actively furthering the marginalization of an already vulnerable population, this memo invites the DoD and DHS to jeopardize current transgender service members’ mental and physical health by depriving them of key treatments.
More dangerously ambiguous wording can be found in the memorandum when the president writes “the Secretary of Defense…shall determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving in the United States military” by Feb. 21, 2018.
The articulation that currently active transgender personnel must be “addressed” inevitably carries the perverse implication that they are a question or a problem rather than human beings.
This choice of diction is dehumanizing and leaves ample room for the implementation of even more unjust measures. Per the directive’s language, transgender service members could be discharged from the military, denied Veterans Affairs services and offered no assistance to transition into a different career–not even a semblance of equity is guaranteed for those who may be required to abandon their posts.
In light of this blatant attack on the rights of trans individuals, the resilient LGBTQ community and its allies must band together and be more fervently committed to the fight for society’s transgender brothers and sisters’ civil rights.
Renee Perez is a junior majoring in political science and economics.