Should Biden have reversed Trump’s transgender military ‘ban’?


Fact Box

  • Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. 
  • On Biden’s first day in office, he rejoined the Paris Accords as well as the WHO, ordered a federal mask mandate, ended the Trump-era travel ban, as well as 13 other orders.
  • Monday, January 25, President Biden signed an order to reverse Trump’s Defense Department military policy in regards to transgender service members
  • Trump’s original 2017 memorandum, “Military Service by Transgender Individuals,” allowed for currently serving transgender troops to continue with plans for hormone treatments and gender transition. However, the military policy was designed to prevent anyone with Gender Dysphoria from being able to enlist and seek transitional surgeries on tax-funded military resources. 
  • There is an extensive list of conditions that make citizens ineligible for service according to military policy: ADHD, dyslexia, schizophrenia or paranoid disorder, mood or behavioral disorder like depression or bipolar disorder which requiring medication, speech impediments “that may significantly interfere with the ability to repeat commands,” a history of self-mutilation, anxiety disorder, PTSD, and so on.

Kevin (Yes)

As writer Evan Young wrote in an article for Transgender American Veterans Association, 'transgender people have served honorably and for decades' before the Trump administration's ban was put in place. As of 2019, it was estimated that nearly 15,000 people who identify as transgender were serving in the US military, including active duty and reserves. When asked about the issue in 2018 by Congress, the four service chiefs said that 'they had seen no discipline, morale or unit readiness problems with transgender troops.' Biden's recently-appointed Secretary of Defense, retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, also expressed his support for the ban's reversal during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Much of the 'evidence' that was used by the Trump administration to support the rule was older data from before transgender people were allowed to serve in the military openly and was largely made up of 'uncited ideological polemics,' as opposed to hard scientific data. In fact, the evidence goes firmly against the ban. The American Psychological Association points out that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that transgender people serving in the military has any ill effect 'on readiness or unit cohesion.' Still, there is evidence showing that 'discrimination and stigma undermine morale and readiness,' as well as affecting the individual well-being and health of soldiers. Additionally, a 2016 Rand Corp. study showed how transgender people serving in the military have 'minimal impact' on both 'readiness and health care costs.' Considering the evidence and the support from military leaders themselves, reversing the ban is certainly the right move.

Stephanie (No)

There are many reasons that could render an individual ineligible to serve in the US Military. Former President Trump considered this when he enacted restrictions on those identifying as transgender from serving and obtaining tax-funded transition surgeries. President Biden's overturning his predecessor's military policy is problematic for several reasons.

While preventing transgender individuals from joining the military is a controversial decision, it has the nation's safety at heart. Servicemen and women in such positions must be ready to fight for the country at any given notice and with minimal distractions. Transitioning from one sex to another requires extensive hormone therapy and sometimes invasive surgeries, which could undoubtedly distract from pressing military tasks.

The military is also monetarily responsible for taking care of its members' health. Adding additional funding requirements, such as with the aforementioned medical circumstances, puts unnecessary stress on the country's defense budget. Just as individuals with other medical or mental conditions may not serve in the military, transgender people fall under this category, as gender dysphoria has been medically determined to be a mental illness.

The issue of sexual assault is also a potential threat, and allowing transgender individuals could seriously complicate this for various reasons: the issue of those of the opposite biological sex sharing sleeping and showering quarters with their fellow service members, as well as potential sex or hate crimes towards transgender individuals.

While Biden claimed that 'America is safer when everyone qualified to serve can do so openly and with pride,' this could not be further from the truth. When dealing with issues regarding national security, there is no room to address gender equality and feelings just to appease some.

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