Advertisement

One step backward, several forward on transgender rights

One step backward, several forward on transgender rights
Ensign Ali Marberry walks through Dahlgren Hall at the United States Naval Academy after changing from a summer dress into her fatigues. She graduated from the Naval Academy in 2015 and soon afterwards came out as transgendered, transitioning to her current female identity. (by Joshua McKerrow / Capital Gazette)

The country just took a step back in the rights of transgender people with adoption of a military-wide ban of people who are biologically born one gender, but identify as another. The Naval Academy in Annapolis is among those institutions that has confirmed it will enforce the pointless and cruel policy.

But there is still hope for transgender rights as so many other institutions, including the Maryland General Assembly and Baltimore school board, are doing the opposite and becoming more accommodating and welcoming.

Advertisement

Pentagon officials like to say what they are doing is not in effect an all-out ban, but make no mistake the policy is so restrictive that it is really hard to call it anything else. It requires people to serve in the gender assigned to them and won’t allow enlistment of those looking to transition to the opposite gender. Transgender people who choose to serve will in effect being hiding their true identities and living their lives in secret — or risk getting kicked out. It’s a new version of don’t ask, don’t tell.

Transgender people should be allowed to serve openly just like anyone else. For the past two years soldiers have been able to show their true identities thanks to Obama administration changes put in place in 2016. Those who joined under that policy will be allowed to remain in service under the new rules, but we can only imagine the kind of stigma, ridicule and discrimination they might face.

It’s clear that the military and the Naval Academy are on the wrong side of history with this decision. The growing signs of acceptance and understanding of transgender people are unmistakable.

Maryland lawmakers made an important statement on the issue of gender identity this past session of the General Assembly by approving legislation that will allow people to identify as gender X, rather than the standard man or woman, on driver’s licenses and state identification cards. The law is meant to accommodate people who are transgender or non-binary, which means they don’t identify as a gender. We only hope that Gov. Larry Hogan sees the importance of gender identity equality and signs the bill into law.

Transgender students attending Baltimore schools also now have protections under a new policy adopted by the school board. Transgender students will be able to use the names, pronouns and bathrooms that align with the gender they identity with. They can also use the bathroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. The policy also extends the policy on sex-based discrimination to include gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and “nonconformance to stereotypical notions of masculinity or femininity.” We hope to see other school systems adopt the same policies that offer the strongest protections to transgender students. State school regulations could also be strengthened. Currently, state regulation recommends using forms where students can choose names and pronouns that reflect their gender identity and teachers can ask students privately how they would prefer to be addressed.

Even the airline industry is hopping on board. “Fly how you identify,” United Airlines tweeted last month as it announced that passengers could select male, female, undisclosed or unspecified or Mx as a gender choice. Other airlines including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and Southwest Airlines vowed to follow. We hope that they do.

Baltimore’s school system, Maryland lawmakers and corporate America have all changed their policies. Why can’t the Trump administration accept people for who they are?

President Donald Trump has tweeted that the ban was justified because soldiers burden the military with "tremendous medical costs and disruption." That was not proven to be true in the two years that transgender soldiers served openly under the Obama administration’s policies. We certainly didn’t lose any wars because of transgender soldiers. A RAND corporation report found that opening the doors to transgender soldiers would have "minimal impact” on military health care costs.

It doesn’t matter what gender you identify with as long as you can perform the job. The Trump administration’s policy is outdated and discriminatory, and it needs to be reversed.

Advertisement
Advertisement