While national news was airing longtime Trump fixer and attorney Michael Cohen’s testimony before the House oversight committee, transgender service members testified in front of Congress for the first time about the Trump-Pence administration’s ban on transgender service members.
On January 22, the Supreme Court allowed the ban to proceed while it is considered by lower courts. According to the National Center For Transgender Equality, it is estimated that more than 134,000 veterans and 15,000 current service members identify as transgender.
A month after the Supreme Court’s decision -- and for the first time in history -- active duty, out trans service members and their allies addressed Congress about the harmful impacts of the Trump-Pence ban and highlighted how the policy contradicts medical and scientific consensus.
Here are some of their most powerful statements from the February 27 hearing:
Capt. Jennifer Peace: President Donald Trump’s tweets announcing the ban made me question why “risk my life again when the people that I am serving do not even want me here?”
REP. LORI TRAHAN (D-MA): We’ve all gone through parts of our career where, you know, we’ve faced difficulties. So, I’d love for you to share with us maybe some of your more difficult times in the military, and in that moment, it would be nice to know, was it being transgender that held your back? Or was it just a difficult time in the military?
CAPT. JENNIFER PEACE: The second [most difficult time] was when I was on leave. I was actually enjoying a little bit of a vacation when I woke up to the tweets from the president of the United States, and I think it was at that moment that I for the first time really questioned why am I still waking up and putting on this uniform when time and time again I am told that I am not able to serve? Why should I wait around to deploy and risk my life again when the people that I am serving do not even want me here?
Peace: If trans folks “are told they are not good enough to serve the United States military, then now the entire United States sees trans people as somehow less.”
PEACE: I think it’s also important to look at how this is going to affect the broader population. Whether deserved or not, there is a hero culture that has risen in the military over the last decade. All of us get thanked for our service and called heroes almost every day that we go out amongst the public. Officers and noncommissioned officers in the military are regularly rated as some of the most respected professions in the United States. So now if transgender people can no longer join the military, if they can’t be awarded Meritorious Service Medals, Purple Hearts; if they can’t deploy around the world; if they are told they are not good enough to serve the United States military, then now the entire United States sees trans people as somehow less.
Staff Sgt. Patricia King: “My authenticity inspired that of my soldiers, along with strong leadership, and hard work, and solid training.”
STAFF SGT. PATRICIA KING: My authenticity inspired that of my soldiers, along with strong leadership, and hard work, and solid training. We built cohesion in a way that I have never seen in my 19 years of service. That’s the value of inclusion. That’s the value of having open trans service. From austere conditions in the field to deployed conditions in combat to life in the barracks, I have witnessed firsthand that troops want strong leaders, leaders who care about them, leaders who can inspire them. They don’t care if that soldier is trans. They don’t care if that leader is gay or bi, white or black, male or female. And they don’t care which bathroom or shower you use. The question that resounds in their mind are, can you do your job and accomplish your mission? Can you put rounds on target in the heat of battle? Can you look out for your troops’ best interests? If a soldier’s leader can do those things, everything else really doesn’t matter.
American Medical Association’s Dr. Jesse M. Ehrenfeld: “There is no medically valid reason ... to exclude transgender individuals from military service.”
DR. JESSE EHRENFELD: I would like to state unequivocally for the record that there is no medically valid reason, including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, to exclude transgender individuals from military service. This is the position of most major medical organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, all of whom disagree with the Department of Defense’s rationale for a transgender ban.
A major report -- noted by Chairwoman Speier earlier -- by several retired military surgeons generals rejected the Department of Defense’s rationale for exclusion, concluding that the Department of Defense’s report is contradicted by ample evidence clearly demonstrating that transition-related care is effective [and] that transgender personnel diagnosed with gender dysphoria are deployable and medically fit. The Department of Defense’s report’s conclusions that transgender are not fit to serve contradicts the medical and scientific consensus. Transgender individuals are fully capable of serving. There is nothing about being transgender that diminishes a person’s ability to serve in the military.