On Monday, Oct. 30, District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Colleen Kollar-Kotelly blocked the ban on transgender people joining the military declared this July by the Trump administration.
President Trump, who announced the ban in a series of tweets, originally said the ban was necessary because the armed forces could not afford “the tremendous medical costs and disruption” associated with trans service members. According to a UCLA study, there are approximately 15,500 trans* people currently in the military. A 2016 Rand Corporation Study found this would account for an increase in military medical spending by “$3.4 to $8.4 million dollars representing an infinitesimal increase in spending 0.04 to 0.13.”
However, Kollar-Kotelly disagrees with President Trump, writing in her ruling that “there is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all.” Furthermore she condemned the ban, which would have gone into effect in March 2018, as driven by “disapproval of trans* people generally.”
In light of that and “the fact that [the President’s reasons] do not appear to be supported by any facts, and the recent rejection of those by the military itself,” Kollar-Kotelly declared the ban was in violation of the fifth amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.
Second-year anthropology major Emily Rodden agreed with Kollar-Kotelly’s decision, saying, “The ban was obviously unconstitutional and I’m glad that at least a few people didn’t just go along with whatever their party said or whatever the President said. I mean, it’s good that at least there’s someone policing him.”
For Jamie Berg, a fourth-year women’s studies major at West Chester and transwoman, however, “the ban is complicated.” Berg said, “I don’t like the military in a very holistic sense; the hold they have in American culture, the imperialistic policies and practices and the way in which they take advantage of those without class/gender/sexuality/race privilege.” Even though she does feel “an intense pull away from any talk of rights within the military,” she said, “I also know that this creates a legal precedent to take away rights/protections from trans* folks.”
Consequently, Berg said, “I wish the conversation acknowledged the complexity of this rather than glorifying the imperialistic values of service members who happen to be trans*.” She also detests how, once again, the predominant argument became “These trans* folks look like they’re cis, so they’re not a distraction,” rather than “a discourse on how this is a legal precedent to take away rights from trans* folk.”
Overall, she is “happy that it is finally on the road to being struck down, so we can redirect our energy to building power among all trans* folks. In general, there is a need for protection against employment, housing, legal discrimination, job, housing search resources, unilaterally allowing trans* prisoners to stay with the gender they identify as, decriminalize and commute sentences of sex workers; outlaw trans* panic defenses and any other shaming of trans* people in the courtroom.” She concluded: “there is so much work to be done.”
Aaron Gallant is a third-year student majoring in urban and environmental planning with minors in anthropology and Spanish. He can be reached at AG851503@wcupa.edu.