“…the readiness and lethality of every branch of the armed forces…”
Testifying last week before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, in response to a Trump administration proposal to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military, five active duty trans service members told lawmakers that their gender identity status was a strength, not a hindrance.
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In 2016, President Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced an end to the ban on openly transgender service members. President Donald Trump’s proposed ban, which is currently blocked by ongoing litigation, would impact the approximately 14,700 reserve and active duty troops who identify as trans.
“What is the value of having transgender people in the military? Based on my experience first as a combat arms officer and medical provider, the answer is unequivocally that my transition—and so many others—has dramatically increased the readiness and lethality of every branch of the armed forces,” Capt. Alivia Stehlik, a brigade physical therapist in the US Army who graduated from West Point and Ranger School, said.
“It’s clear that my presence in Afghanistan dramatically improved the readiness of my unit,” Stehlik added.
Army attack helicopter pilot Lindsey Muller touted the medals and honors received by trans service members such as herself to bolster her case for letting them serve. “Once you meet transgender people who have served in the different branches … it’s really hard to dismiss the fact that you will find Purple Heart recipients, Bronze Star winners, attack aviators, Navy SEALs,” she said. “We’ve been here, and we will continue to be here regardless. In what capacity is up to the administration.”
The the military has spent an estimated $8 million on the treatment of transgender troops since 2016, according to Department of Defense data. According to the Associated Press, military leaders testified last year that they had not found morale problems with having transgender troops in the military.
Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier, who called the hearing, said Wednesday that the ban is ““discriminatory, unconstitutional and self-defeating.”
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