Let Transgender Soldiers Serve

Discrimination, by one American against another, has been one of our most despicable and implacable enemies.
08/07/2017 10:32 am ET Updated Aug 07, 2017

E pluribus unum: Out of many, one.

This sense of inclusiveness, that we are in it together, is part of the DNA of our American culture. Sure, we can admit we have failed to honor this part of ourselves many times, but eventually the rudder of our national conscience has steered us toward this ideal. 

Over the centuries of our country’s history, our military has learned how to include blacks, women and gay Americans, sometimes before the rest of us were able to do so. Our military has been, in this sense, the point of the spear of our robust national spirit. 

And now we have another time, another hour, where we’re faced with the choice of leaving behind thousands of other Americans who, through no choice of their own, were born transgender. 

Simply put, being transgender means that a person’s gender (inner sense of being male, female or both) does not match their biology (chromosomes, anatomy, hormones). The Williams Institute estimates that approximately 1.4 million people identify as transgender in America today. Contrary to what some might think, they did not make the decision to embrace their true gender because it’s trendy — or because they want to go all Peeping Tom in the opposite sex’s restroom.

According to the RAND Study, between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender people are actively serving in the United States military, with between 830 and 4,160 in the reserves. If once again banned, future generations will likely serve, just as they always have, but secretly and fearfully — from inside the closet where we keep our prejudices hidden from sight. The others — those currently serving — are in fear of being stripped of their military honor overnight. 

The argument that care “costs too much,” as the Tweet Heard ’Round the World suggested, has been debunked writ large — including a notable argument that annual transgender medical costs in the military amount to less than a tenth of the price of a new F-35 fighter jet. 

Too much? Clearly, what costs too much is the price of devaluing the American Way.

We are an inclusive nation — most notably expressed in our very name, the United States of America. This sort of inclusiveness has been embedded between the lines of our Constitution’s every word. New enlistees in the Army take an oath to “defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Those who take this vow should be respected, honored and thanked — without a single thought about their gender.  

Discrimination, by one American against another, has been one of our most despicable and implacable enemies. So today, as always, remember who you are, America: Out of many, one.

Interested in learning more about what it means to be transgender, click here.

Steven Ing is a Marriage and Family Therapist, author and speaker, who makes his home in Reno. Tweet @StevenIngMFT or email askING@stevening.com

This opinion originally appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal.

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