Tag: military

Removal of Transgender Military Ban Is a Victory for Trans People and Their Families and Children

Removal of Transgender Military Ban Is a Victory for Trans

President Biden’s executive order yesterday ending the ban on transgender people serving in the military is not only a victory for the many trans people in uniform, but also for the children and families they support.

Jennifer and Deborah Peace and their children - Credit: TransMilitary

Jennifer and Deborah Peace and their children – Credit: TransMilitary

The premise of the executive order is very simple: “All Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve.” Biden added, “The All-Volunteer Force thrives when it is composed of diverse Americans who can meet the rigorous standards for military service, and an inclusive military strengthens our national security.”

For the more than 15,000 transgender people currently serving, that’s an acknowledgment of equality. For those who are parents, it means they do not have to fear losing their jobs and being unable to feed and house their children. The U.S. military is the country’s largest employer of transgender people, according to the 2018 documentary TransMilitary. The unemployment rate for trans people is three times higher than the national average, and over one quarter (27 percent) of trans people who held or applied for a job reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion due to their gender identity, per the National Center for Transgender Equality‘s latest U.S. Transgender Survey. (The survey covers 2016-17, but I can’t imagine the number improved during the last four years.)

As Deborah Peace said in Transmilitary about her spouse Jennifer Peace, a captain in the U.S. Army and a trans woman, “She was the breadwinner of the family.” The Peaces have three children.

The removal of the ban will also, I imagine, positively impact service members and their spouses who are not trans themselves, but are raising transgender or gender-creative children. Consider: The Department of Defense Child Development Virtual Lab School (VLS), an online professional development system for the 33,000 child- and youth-care professionals working with children of military families on bases around the world, in 2018 launched a course on “Creating Gender Safe Spaces.” Sarah Lang, associate director of research and professional development at VLS, told me in an interview, “Part of the reason we developed this course was that people working in military childcare saw gender-expansive kids and reached out to us. We want to be supportive of children and families with gender-expansive or LGBT members, and to arm staff with tools to navigate conversations with other families.” Clearly, then, there were enough of these families that such a program was worth creating. Yet children are less likely to thrive in an environment that condemns their identities. Transgender people serving openly (and perhaps occasionally visiting on-base classrooms) may give these children important role models.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III has also clarified that the new policy applies not only to transgender people currently serving, but also to those wishing to enlist. He noted, too:

The United States Armed Forces are in the business of defending our fellow citizens from our enemies, foreign and domestic. I believe we accomplish that mission more effectively when we represent all our fellow citizens. I also believe we should avail ourselves of the best possible talent in our population, regardless of gender identity. We would be rendering ourselves less fit to the task if we excluded from our ranks people who meet our standards and who have the skills and the devotion to serve in uniform.

This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.

Darn right.

As we move forward, however, let us not forget how we got here. TransMilitary, which profiles not only the Peace family, but also several other transgender service members, is available on several of the major streaming services. I encourage you to watch. It’s a reminder that not only did transgender service members and their families feel the negative impact of the ban, but that many put their careers on the line by sharing their stories and speaking out against it. It is in large part because of their efforts, along with research (and more research) and the work of many other advocates, that Biden put pen to paper and signed yesterday’s order, affirming transgender people’s right to serve their country on equal terms.

Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace, and Senior Airman Logan Ireland - Credit: TransMilitary

Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace, and Senior Airman Logan Ireland – Credit: TransMilitary

If reading’s more your thing, check out the 2019 NPR profile of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bree “B” Fram, her spouse Peg, and their two kids; this piece by Alli Alexander, an Army veteran, mother, and now military spouse, about her husband’s transition while in the Army; or this InStyle profile of Capt. Peace.

This executive order is personal for me—I have a friend who is a transgender man, a parent, and a serving member of the Armed Forces. I’m delighted for him and his family, and for all transgender service members. Thanks to them for their service to us all.

Finland military warned homosexuality was ‘obstacle’ to training

Finland

Finland military troops (Creative Commons/A. v. Z.)

Finland’s defence forces have been criticised for using discriminatory training material that described homosexuality as an “obstacle” to service.

The shocking advice came from the Centre for Military Medicine, which is responsible for the health of conscripts and defence personnel.

According to a report by the Finnish Parliamentary Ombudsman, the centre said in a training manual that sexual orientation, specifically homosexuality, was an obstacle to military service.

The material referred to “demanding terms of service” and community housing, Nord News reported. For this reason, it said, cadets should doubt their chances of successfully completing the training.

Gay cadets were advised to opt for the Class C category in fitness checks, a category that is exempt from peacetime military service and includes those with mental health issues.

In response to criticism from the ombudsman, the Defence Command insisted that the Finnish military does not consider homosexuality to be a mental disorder, nor should it have been a criterion in Class C.

However, the ombudsman said that the training material might have given health professionals the impression that sexuality could hinder military service, despite Finland declassifying homosexuality as an illness in 1981.

The ombudsman found that the material was offensive and discriminatory, and these sections have now been removed from the document.

The controversial guidance is surprising coming from Finland, which is widely viewed as one of the most LGBT-friendly countries in the world.

Last year the Gay Happiness Index ranked it as the happiest country for LGBT+ people, beating Denmark, Norway, Iceland, The Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand.

Public opinion is similarly high: a 2019 poll found that 80 per cent of Finns think LGBT+ people should enjoy all the same rights as heterosexual people, and their newly-elected prime minister Sanna Marin is the proud daughter of same-sex parents. She says her family’s strong belief in equality is the foundation of her political views.

Democrats demand end to Donald Trump’s abhorrent trans military ban once and for all in wake of historic Supreme Court ruling

Democrats demand end to Donald Trump's abhorrent trans military ban

Army Sergeant Shane Ortega laces up boots before posing for a portrait at home at Wheeler Army Airfield on March 26, 2015 in Wahiawa, Hawaii. (Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

Democratic lawmakers have pressed for an end to Donald Trump ‘s ban on transgender people serving in the military, in wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on LGBT+ civil rights protections.

In its ruling last month, the Supreme Court made clear that anti-discrimination protections enshrined in the 1964 Civil Rights Act also protect people from discrimination in employment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT+ activists are hopeful that the ruling means that days are numbered for the ban on trans people serving in the armed forces, which was imposed in the wake of an infamous Trump tweet-storm in 2017.

Trump administration warned of ‘certain defeat’ over trans military ban

In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Attorney General William Barr published Wednesday, Democrats in the House of Representatives urged the Trump administration to “immediately” eliminate the ban and cease resisting court action on the issue in the face of “almost certain defeat.”

The letter states: “This policy denies transgender people the ability to enlist in the military and puts transgender troops at risk of being discharged for living openly and authentically.

“The Bostock decision unambiguously clarified that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes protections for LGBTQ workers.

“Justice Gorsuch wrote ‘[t]he statute’s message for our cases is equally simple and momentous: An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.’”

Noting the four ongoing lawsuits challenging the ban working their way through the court system, the letter adds: “The US Supreme Court’s ruling in Bostock will provide significant weight to those already substantial claims: the principle announced— that gender-identity discrimination is discrimination ‘because of sex’—applies equally to claims under the Constitution.

“Prolonging the litigation in the face of almost certain defeat, and thereby prolonging the existing policy, will continue to inflict serious harm on transgender people seeking to serve our country and on those already serving while living in the shadows, enduring the dignitary harm of being told they’re a burden.

“This policy is an attack on transgender service members who are risking their lives to serve our country and it should be reversed immediately.”

Democratic lawmakers joined activists to rally against the transgender military service ban.
Democratic lawmakers joined activists to rally against the transgender military service ban. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The White House declined to comment on the letter, according to forces outlet Stars and Stripes.

The letter, spearheaded by Washington Democrat Suzan DelBene, is signed by 113 Democratic members of Congress, including every single out LGB House lawmaker – David Cicilline, Angie Craig, Sharice Davids, Sean Patrick Maloney, Chris Pappas, Mark Pocan and Mark Takano. There are no out transgender people elected to the House of Representatives.

Joe Biden has already vowed to immediately scrap trans ban

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has already pledged to scrap the ban if elected in November.

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Joe Biden has vowed to strike down the trans military ban (Michael Brochstein / Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

His policy plan makes clear: “Every American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to do so—regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and without having to hide who they are.

“Biden will direct the US Department of Defense to allow transgender service members to serve openly, receive needed medical treatment, and be free from discrimination.”