Your Navy

Op-Ed: Trump’s ‘failed leadership’ led to transgender ban

From the moment President Donald J. Trump haphazardly announced his transgender military ban via Twitter in the summer of 2017, he has needlessly put the lives and careers of transgender military personnel in harm’s way.

Five of those service members testified this week at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee’s Military Personnel Subcommittee, chaired by my congresswoman, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier.

As a Navy veteran and woman who happens to be transgender, I am grateful to have my California elected officials fighting passionately for the equality that I and so many others are at risk of losing at the hands of an administration that believes we should not exist.

During the hearing, the first of its kind for trans service members, Rep. Speier called out Trump’s ban for what it is: “discriminatory, unconstitutional and self-defeating.”

Thankfully, two injunctions are halting the ban — one of which is Doe v. Trump, brought in part by the National Center for Lesbian Rights. I serve as a board co-chair of Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of several trans rights organizations that have filed briefs supporting both of these cases.

When I accepted my commission in 1992, I did so with an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I served in operations supporting no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq, and our focus was on protecting the lives of innocent Bosnian and Iraqi citizens who were vulnerable to air attacks over their own country.

Not once did I ever worry about the sexual orientation or gender identity of those I was serving beside. We were trained to focus on the task at hand and work together to accomplish the mission. That same focus exists in today’s military, where gay, lesbian and transgender service members have been serving together seamlessly for the past few years.

During my time in the Navy, I was not concerned about the motives of the president I served, nor did I question who was really in charge.

It is shameful that today’s armed forces cannot serve with that same confidence in their Commander in Chief. By pushing this discriminatory ban, the president is consciously relinquishing his decisions on military readiness to his vice president, who has long championed an anti-LGBTQ agenda.

Trump’s trans military ban follows a long line of legal and political attacks on our community. For me, the political barrage began almost three years ago when I was living in North Carolina. Former Gov. Pat McCrory championed House Bill 2, which barred trans people from using restrooms consistent with our authentic selves and obliterated the possibility of LGBTQ protections in local municipalities.

As I joined the fight for transgender rights in North Carolina, it became apparent to me that McCrory had no idea what it meant to be transgender. He found himself completely caught off guard when not only the LGBTQ community, but also the majority of North Carolina residents called out his cruelty and deemed it sufficient enough to vote him out of office.

My decision to appear in the first nationally-aired transgender awareness ad was fueled by my desire to show the public the absurdity of treating transgender people differently than others and its unnecessary harm on my community, which is already at extremely high risk for violence and discrimination.

The same can be said of the transgender military ban. Today, transgender service members are proudly serving around the world. Studies conducted by our own military have concluded that open transgender military service does not diminish unit cohesion or fighting readiness and the cost of trans medical care is minimal.

By contrast, the price tag for discharging highly trained and qualified troops would approach $1 billion.

People across this country should be deeply concerned that the president is willingly and ignorantly abdicating his responsibilities, as dedicated transgender service members put their lives on the line. He enjoys the pomp and circumstance of office without understanding the detrimental impact he is having on the brave troops he is supposed to be leading.

I am determined to keep speaking out against an administration determined to thwart their courageous dedication to the safety of America.

But we can’t do this work alone. We need other fair-minded people across this nation to continue pushing back against the president and his failed leadership.

Alaina Kupec co-chairs the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund board. (photo courtesy of Kathy Brennan-Kupec)
Alaina Kupec co-chairs the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund board. (photo courtesy of Kathy Brennan-Kupec)

A Navy veteran who served as an intelligence officer before beginning a career in the pharmaceutical industry, Alaina Kupec is the Board Co-Chair for Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund. She lives with her wife in San Francisco. Her views do not necessarily represent those of Navy Times nor its staffers.

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