This summer, our client Nicolas Talbott is splitting his time between a seasonal trucking job and working at his family farm. He is a devoted grandson who has been responsible for his grandmother’s beef herd since he was a teenager. He loves farming. But his dream has been to be an airman in the United States Air Force, something for which he has trained most of his adult life.
Rather than herding cattle, he wants to be at boot camp. But he can’t, because he is transgender.
Two years ago today, the United States military broke faith with its troops and the American people. In a series of tweets, President Trump announced that transgender service members — dedicated members of our armed forces who had trusted their government’s word that they could come out and serve their country openly — would no longer be permitted to serve in the U.S. military.
Across the country, military leaders, elected officials from across the political spectrum, medical experts, and the American public immediately saw the president’s shocking statement for what it was: a slap in the face to service members who had demonstrated their fitness to serve and dedicated their careers and lives to the defense of our country.
Four federal courts, in lawsuits challenging the president’s ban, blocked it for nearly two years. But the Trump administration has cynically persisted, ultimately securing from five Supreme Court justices the go-ahead to temporarily enforce the ban while the legal challenges to it continue in the lower courts.
In the meantime, support for transgender troops is strong and growing:
• Highly regarded military leaders continue to speak out against the ban.
• Many 2020 presidential candidates have voiced support for reopening the military to transgender people.
• Thousands of people marched in Pride parades across the country last month for the freedom of transgender people to serve their country.
Since the president announced his ban two years ago today, transgender service members have not wavered in their continued service to our country.
Earlier this year, a panel of transgender service members testified about their military experience in a historic hearing before the House Armed Services Committee. Their powerful testimony left no doubt that this ban puts our military at risk of losing highly qualified, trained, and dedicated troops. Thousands more qualified transgender Americans — just like Nic on the farm in Ohio — stand ready to serve the minute they are once again permitted to enlist on equal terms.
Our nation’s elected officials, former military leaders and veterans, medical and other experts continue to speak out against the ban, and we will not stop fighting it in the courts until it is gone for good.
Throughout history, our country has repudiated policies that discriminated against service members based on their race, gender, or sexual orientation, Today, President Trump’s discriminatory stance toward transgender service members is a new stain on our military, one that strikes at the very heart of American values.
Like those past discarded policies, Trump’s ban on transgender service members will also fail. The military’s own experience and values, and those of our nation as a whole, have shown time and again that it is inclusion — not exclusion — that makes us stronger.
Jennifer Levi is the Transgender Rights Project director at GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. Shannon Minter is legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.