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Transgender Service Members

by Jason Rivenburg


Banning transgender persons from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces is not fair. The status of such members became an issue when the President stated his stance against them, only for military leaders to counter it: a process to determine the viability of such service members will be completed, which was put in place by the last administration. The debate was quickly overshadowed by hurricanes and even messier politics. But it’s still an issue, especially for current service members, and many veterans.

I’m a veteran and this issue is important to me because I know what it takes to wear a uniform and fight a war, and nothing is more important than a person’s willingness to die in the name of this country—such courage is not limited to men or women, or any other labels we tend to use to differentiate our citizens.

Two arguments are consistently used to support the President’s proposed ban of transgender service members. The first argument is related to cost, claiming that medical procedures associated with transgender persons is expensive, and so are the subsequent costs of hormone therapy. I’m not going to throw out numbers and turn this into a research paper, so if you think cost is an issue, then please take a few minutes with Google and you’ll find such expenditures are negligible.

I can tell you that the amount of money spent on other service members is astronomically more. With that, why was my teammate in the Army provided free treatment when he broke his leg during a night of drinking and stupidity, and then couldn’t deploy to Iraq? Why was another

teammate provided free treatment for a multitude of STD’s because he had an affinity for prostitutes? Other service members were afforded psychological therapy and drugs related to psychological issues, including those not related to combat.

The second argument is that a transgender person is afflicted with a mental disorder. That isn’t for me to debate, but again, why are others afforded psychological treatments, regardless of their issues, but a transgender person should be denied? I have fought alongside men and women who suffered from a multitude of mental issues and I guarantee they would have received a diagnosis, if they saw a doctor. Many were diagnosed, and they still served. I know this because in 2004, I spent a lot of time with mental health professionals, and have since. The truth is that many service members are messed up, which leads to things like drinking, drug use, and domestic abuse. Yet, they continue to serve because we do what we can to help them.

Why can’t we help every service member be comfortable with themselves? Because if you think their label is an issue in combat, you’re wrong—their ability to fight is the only thing that matters. When bullets are flying, you want a person next to you who is willing to be there, and who is confident in what they are doing. I have been alongside men and women who were neither—they were a greater detriment than a transgender service member who stands tall, willing and confident because they are treated like everyone else.

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