Virginia’s National Guard not only said they’d enforce the trans military ban in the Commonwealth, but also backed the deceptive anti-LGBTQ reasoning for the ban given by the Trump administration.
On Tuesday, Major General Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia’s National Guard, told ThinkProgress that the Virginia National Guard would comply with the transgender military ban instituted by the Trump administration earlier this year. This decision might seem unsurprising, but with five different states so far — California, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico, and Nevada — publicly announcing that their state National Guards would not comply with the ban, it was a question that needed to be asked.
What is more important is the way the answer to ThinkProgress’s question was phrased by Major General Williams. “The new DOD policy doesn’t ban transgender individuals from service, and transgender members may continue to serve,” Williams wrote. “The DOD policy states that anyone who meets military standards without special accomodations can and should be able to serve, and this includes transgender persons.”
So what does this statement actually mean? To understand its doublespeak nature, one must fully understand the phrase “without special accomodations.” In April, when the ban was officially instituted, Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Carla Gleason told The Washington Blade that currently-serving transgender members of the military will not be discharged, saying, “Transgender members currently serving will be able to continue serving so we do not anticipate any discharges.”
However, according to the Blade, the policy does state that service members who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or prescribed transition-related care in the future will be discharged. It also, according to the Blade, refuses enlistment for any individual with a history of gender dysphoria, unless they are willing to serve in the sex they were assigned at birth. People who have already transitioned are banned outright.
Clearly, the statement that transgender persons can still serve is deceptive. Major General Williams’s phrase, “special accomodations,” encompasses everything from future surgery to hormone replacement therapy to psychological treatment, as well as many other aspects of the transgender experience. Saying that transgender people aren’t banned from military service because they do have the right to serve in the sex they were assigned at birth is no different from anti-marriage equality activists in years past telling us that gay people aren’t prohibited from getting married on the basis that a gay man can marry a woman anytime he wishes. It’s technically true, but it’s a statement made in bad faith by someone who’s actively trying to miss the point.
On the same day that Williams confirmed Virginia’s intent to comply with the trans military ban, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee released a statement calling on Governor Northam to intervene and allow transgender troops to serve in Virginia’s National Guard. “A 2016 study by the RAND Corporation found that allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in the Armed Forces would ‘have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs’ and ‘little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness’,” they stated, also mentioning that thousands of transgender troops currently serve in the US Armed Forces without negative impact on the military as a whole, and that everyone from the American Medical Association to the five military Chiefs Of Staff in the president’s cabinet oppose the ban.
Governor Northam has in the past voiced his opposition to the trans military ban via Twitter, tweeting in response to President Trump, “Anyone who wants to serve our country in the military should be welcomed. They’re patriots and should be treated as such.” However, he has not yet responded to requests for comment on the Virginia National Guard’s decision. And in the meantime, transgender Virginians hoping to serve in their country’s military meet with yet another roadblock.
Image via Virginia National Guard/Facebook