Early Wednesday morning, President Trump announced his decision not to allow those who identify as transgender to serve the U.S. military in any capacity. “Our 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,” tweeted the President. This decision comes in light of the defeat of an amendment in the annual defense policy bill banning Pentagon funds from being used in any medical care related to gender reassignment.
The President’s statement received reaction from leaders in various camps. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) responded on Twitter stating, “Thousands of trans service-members on the front lines deserve better from their commander-in-chief, @realDonaldTrump.” Backlash also came from Florida Representative Ilena Ros-Lehtinen who in fact has a son who is transgender and stated that “No American, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be prohibited from honor and privilege of serving our nation.” Representative Vicky Hartzler echoed the President’s cost concerns and agreed that this is a matter of readiness to serve and costly transgender medical care would have negative consequences on our national security.
As the daughter of two parents who served in the military – my mother for 23 years and my father for four years – the question of who should defend our nation hits home. Under the Obama administration, America witnessed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policies which for so long shielded the military from political institutions like the ACLU or other groups who want to use the military as a vehicle for LGBT rights. The defense of our nation is not political; it was never meant to be. The mission and sole goal of America’s military is to defend the homeland and keep citizens from harm. When brave men and women enlist in the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, National Guard, etc. they are making a conscious choice to sacrifice themselves. For the patriots who accept the challenge, choice, and blessing to serve domestically and overseas, protecting our country is a daily sacrifice.
I lived in seven different states before I finished high school. I’ve stood in a hangar and watched my mother get on a plane in full combat dress and been truly uncertain if she would come back. I have two grandfathers, an uncle, and two cousins who have served honorably and sacrificed with honor. My mother abided by simple rules in her professional military career: refraining from political statements, avoiding topics about faith, and maintaining utmost confidentiality about her daily duties – even among family. We daily sacrificed our time together, our comfort, and in a lot of ways our identity, for the defense of America – just as so many other military families do everyday.
All that being said, the discussion of transgender – and for that matter gay individuals – serving in the military is identity politics at its finest, and it has no place in America. When you sign up, you forfeit the right to your identity and it does not matter your sexual orientation, faith, or family status. The discussion of funding transgender surgeries and the associated medical costs through our defense budget puts the safety of our nation in grave danger. While we squabble over who gets what gender reassignment surgery and when, we are distracted from the task at hand such as rebuilding our Navy and securing for our servicemen and women the very best equipment available.
At its core, this decision was made with our service members in mind and as the Commander in Chief, President Trump has a duty to ensure our troops are focused on matters such as defeating ISIS, not making budget cuts to fund costly surgeries. The great irony of the public outcry against Trump on this particular action is that of all Republican presidents in America’s history, he is by far the most progressive on social issues and has often been quoted supporting the LGBT community.
All in all, the decision to join the military costs men and women their identity. For what other reason would they wear uniforms or dog tags if not to reinforce group mentality? The soundness of our nation’s safety rests in men and women who selflessly choose to do so – and identity politics is the antithesis of their mission. Trump’s stance on this issue signals a more focused and economically conscious defense budget, one which cuts waste but leaves our servicemen and women better prepared to defend the homeland rather than be preoccupied by a social justice cause.