By Emma Hedrick and Tristan Brooks
The United States military, from the time of its creation in 1775, has always been a secluded “Boys Club” with changes for minorities coming slowly. For women, official military service only became available after WWII when the Women’s Army Corps, or WAC, was created. For gay, lesbian and bisexual people military service only became available in 1933, under one condition – they had to hide who they were. With the Obama administration in 2010, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell act was repealed, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to openly serve in the armed forces, without having to hide their identity.
Changes for transgender people were different, though. In fact, no such ban existed until 1960 when a “blanket ban” was put into place prohibiting transgender persons from serving in the US Armed Forces, no exceptions. This changed several times under former President Donald Trump’s administration, eventually ending with him saying that there would be no transgender persons allowed to serve in the military.
Outrage sparked across the country, leading to protests outside of recruitment centers and government buildings. Fortunately, when President Joe Biden took office, he reversed this 2018 ban. Transgender people and those with gender dysphoria were now allowed to serve. This begs three questions. Why does this matter? How does the military feel about this? How does the average person feel about it?
The only opinion that should matter when discussing the topic of transgender personnel in the military is those who are going into or currently serving in the military. Those are the people who know what will and will not affect their units.
A Defense Department-funded study found that 66 percent of active duty military personnel support serving with transgender people. In another study performed by the Pentagon, 75 percent of women and 62 percent of men said transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military. These percentages will increase as approval of other minorities serving in the military has.
The most common argument against transgender people serving in the military is that it would have a negative impact of overall unit cohesion and preparedness. However, another study discussing research in the journal Armed Forces & Society found “no overall negative impact from the repeal on morale, retention, unit cohesion, or readiness to serve” and it even found that “the repeal enhanced the military’s capacity to pursue its missions.”
Adjustment and change is difficult for any team, but people in the military have specifically been taught to adapt to any situation necessary. Social issues are no different.
For people including U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Mak Vaden, joining the military was their dream. In an interview by spartapride.org, Vaden, who is transgender, said he has had to endure endless challenges including “negative remarks about transgender service” and “administrative battles” and yet he still felt proud to serve.
Vaden wants people to know something about transgender military personnel.
“We are people,” he said. “We love, hope, fear, bleed, cry, and have all the human experiences just like any other person and are deserving of the same respect, dignity, and opportunity as such.”
There are many other stories of service members similar to Vaden who go through hatred and difficulties as they serve their country.
Regardless of personal beliefs and disagreements, we are all human beings made of skin and bones, each of us capable of greatness. We, the writers, are both future members of the United States military. One of us is enlisted in the Army and the other is joining the Air Force. We believe that any transgender person who has the passion and dedication to serve the people of the United States should be welcomed with open arms and we would be honored to serve with them.