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Trump Is Banning Trans Soldiers at the Worst Possible Time

Trump Is Banning Trans Soldiers at the Worst Possible Time

As we face aggression around the globe, the president continues to push stunningly bad military policy.

President Trump's tweet that the U.S. military will not "accept or allow" transgender service members triggered a host of vehement and impassioned replies, many calling the decision morally wrong, ethically bereft, and a legally flawed way to treat fellow Americans.

As the president prepares to send "guidance" to the services on how to rid the military of transgender service members, it is imperative for those of us who are able to speak out against such prejudice and intolerance.

As an academic researcher and former military officer, I can add a practical point to that litany: It's bad military policy too. Both for today and tomorrow.

At a time when North Korea is threatening imminent attack -- we should not be casting away an estimated 15,000 members of our armed services because of anyone's discomfort with their preferred pronoun. These are fighting men and women who are ready, willing, and able to put their lives on the line for all Americans. And we already have invested significant money to arm and train them. This is a moment for putting all eager hands on deck -- not for thinning the ranks.

It's bad policy for tomorrow too. Our research shows the president's policy would shut off one of the military's strongest pipelines for the future.

It is important to note that the president's new policy isn't about stopping something before it happens. Rather, it seeks to undo something that already is deeply established. Indeed, the U.S. military is currently the largest employer of transgender people in the world. To say that the thousands of transgender service members actively serving in the U.S. have no place is to say that our current military is unfit to defend this great country.

The quality of military service rendered by our transgender soldiers is documented. Data from our Military Acceptance Project, a two-year, $1.8 million study funded by the Department of Defense, demonstrate the courage and commitment of transgender service members. These brave soldiers risk their lives on the battlefield, an act that requires fortitude and power, all the while recognizing the potential for discrimination both within and outside of their service.

With military threats abounding, we should cherish and honor our proven soldiers -- not push some of them away.

Transgender service members also represent a formidable source of service members for the future. According to a recent Pentagon survey, only 19 percent of 16-to-21-year-olds indicated that they would "probably" or "definitely" join the military. But transgender individuals are twice as likely to have served in the armed forces: The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found that transgender individuals assigned female at birth are nearly three times more likely than all adult women and those assigned male at birth are 1.6 times more likely than all adult men to serve.

President Trump's decision stands to interrupt a culture shift in the U.S. military toward acceptance and integration for transgender service members. The sacrifices of military service members are many, and transgender individuals have earned the right to serve. Simply put -- we need them.

CARL CASTRO, Ph.D., is a retired Army colonel, having served 33 years in the U.S. military. Castro directs the USC Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families at the University of Southern California and is co-principal investigator, along with Ian Holloway, Jeremy Goldbach, and Sheree Schrager, of the Military Acceptance Project.

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