America, May, 2018

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Senators Urge SECDEF to Lift Transgender Ban

Near the end of April nearly half the US Senate issued a press release and an open letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis urging him to allow open Transgender service.  They outlined extensive research and statements by all Service Secretaries determining that transgender patriotic volunteers are fully able and willing to serve in our armed forces without any disruption of morale, cohesion, readiness, order, discipline or any other factors.

Evan Young, Major, USA retired, President of Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), stated that, "The support of nearly half of the United States Senate is a testament to the recognition of the courageous and honorable service of Transgender patriotic volunteers in our American armed forces.  The Secretary of Defense is urged to immediately remove all barriers to their open service in this era when every able bodied American volunteer is needed to serve our nation in defense of freedom." http://www.transveteran.org

The Press Release issued by Senator Gillibrand, along with the letter to the Secretary of Defense follows below.

From the office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

AFTER ALL FOUR MILITARY SERVICE CHIEFS CONFIRM TRANSGENDER TROOPS HAVE NOT HARMED UNIT COHESION, DISCIPLINE, OR MORALE, GILLIBRAND LEADS BIPARTISAN GROUP OF 49 SENATORS IN TELLING DEFENSE SECRETARY MATTIS TRANSGENDER TROOP BAN IS HARMFUL TO MILITARY

Senators: New “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy For Transgender Service Members Will Harm Our Nation’s Military

Trump Administration’s Ban On Transgender Troops Goes Against The Consensus From Medical Community And Military Leadership That Transgender Troops Are Physically And Mentally Able To Serve

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, today led a bipartisan group of 49 Senators in a letter to Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis opposing the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender service members and decrying the Secretary’s implementation recommendations for the ban. The Senators’ letter follows statements by the chiefs of the Army, Navy, and Air Force and commandant of the Marine Corps asserting that open transgender service has had no negative effect on unit cohesion, discipline, or morale. The statements were made in response to Senator Gillibrand’s questions at four recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearings.

“The recommendations and report break faith with the men and women serving in our military by establishing a new “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for transgender service members, permitting them to serve only if they are willing to forego any chance of living as their true selves,” the Senators wrote. “Just as our mistaken policy regarding lesbian, gay and bisexual service members harmed readiness and ultimately was repealed, the implementation of your recommendations will also harm our nation’s military. Accordingly, we are opposed to the implementation of this discriminatory policy.”

“The Senators who signed the letter to Secretary Mattis are rightly concerned that the Pentagon is taking aim at its own troops, and doing so on the basis of false and misleading claims about the research that shows that inclusion promotes readiness, and that transgender troops are as medically fit as their peers,” said Dr. Aaron Belkin, Director of the Palm Center.

“Today's letter reflects the overwhelming bipartisan opposition among both members of Congress and the American public to this president's dangerous and unconstitutional ban on transgender troops,” said Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy. “The implementation guidance issued by the Trump-Pence administration was fundamentally flawed and misleading in its assessments and conclusion. Since the President's first reckless and impulsive tweets on this matter, military leadership, medical experts and federal courts have all affirmed the fact that there is simply no reason to bar qualified transgender people from serving their country. The Human Rights Campaign is grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her ongoing leadership on this critical issue -- and we thank all members of Congress from both parties who continue to speak out in support of our brave service members.”

“This bipartisan letter from nearly four dozen members of the U.S. Senate, led by Senator Gillibrand, is a powerful rebuke to the implementation plan for President Trump’s discriminatory and unconstitutional attempt to ban transgender people from the Armed Forces. The implementation plan released on March 23rd was nothing more than transphobia masquerading as policy. This letter makes clear that transgender people in our military deserve more from their government than a policy that coerces them into choosing between their humanity and their country and that tells them that they are not welcome. It’s very encouraging to see this support for transgender service members from so many senators. The ACLU will continue to work with Democratic and Republican allies in Congress to vigorously oppose this reckless and unconstitutional policy,” said Ian Thompson, Legislative Representative for the ACLU.

As part of the requirements set out by President Trump after his announcement of a ban on transgender service, Secretary Mattis submitted to the President his recommendations on how to implement the President’s ban as well as a report from a panel he established to assess the issue. These documents were made public in a Department of Justice court filing on March 23, 2018. The recommendations and report ignore the scientific consensus about transgender individuals’ physical and mental ability to serve in the military. The recommendations also contradict the recent statements by the four military service chiefs that open transgender service members have not affected good order and discipline or unit cohesion.

In the letter, the Senators decry the recommendations and urge Secretary Mattis to establish a fair policy that allows any Americans who are willing and capable of serving their country to join the military. The bipartisan letter was signed by Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Murkowski (R-AK), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), and Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Donnelly (D-IN), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Heitkamp (D-ND), Hirono (D-HI), Jones (D-AL), Kaine (D-VA), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Markey (D-MA), McCaskill (D-MO), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Murray (D-WA), Nelson (D-FL), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).

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My Right, My Duty, My Honor

by Denny Meyer

In 1968 I left college and volunteered to serve in the US Navy despite being doubly exempt as a college student and being gay.  Everyone thought I was nuts to do it.  My gay friends told me, "Are you crazy!  You can't do that; you're a little faggot!"  My parents told me, "Ziete Mishugah!  (Are you crazy!) you're supposed to be a doctor or a lawyer, not a gunslinger!"  At the time, thousands of young Americans were fleeing to Canada, rather than being drafted and sent to Vietnam.  Some were conscientious objectors, some were cowards, some were somewhere in between.  Thousands of other young Americans lied and said they were gay in order to avoid being drafted and being sent to Vietnam.  I lied and said I was straight so that I could serve.  At that time gay people were simply unwanted in our armed forces.  We were forbidden to serve, period.  If you were found out to be gay, you could be murdered by your fellow service members, or you'd be interrogated and terrorized for months and then be dishonorably discharged in disgrace.

So, why did I do it?  The story goes back to before I was born.  My parents were WWII Holocaust Refugees to America.  My mother arrived at Ellis Island at the height of WWII as an illegal immigrant refugee.  She had no visa, no papers, nothing; she was fleeing genocide in Nazi Germany.  She was allowed to stay, given a green card as a resident alien and five cents to pay for ferry fare across New York's harbor from Ellis Island, past the Statue of Liberty, to start her new life in America, in New York City.  That nickel was the only welfare she ever received for the next sixty years of her life in this country.   My mother, eternally grateful to have been allowed to stay in this country, raised me to believe that "There is nothing more precious than American Freedom." 

Somehow, that message sank in and became the guiding principal of my life.  Now, back to 1968, when I saw all my fellow college students, who took their freedom for granted, protesting the war in Vietnam by burning the American flag.  As a first generation American, who did not take his freedom for granted, seeing my flag being burned enraged me.  And I thought, "Its time to pay my country back for my family's freedom."  That's how it happened.  That's why I did it.  People telling me that I couldn't, that I shouldn't, that I was crazy, only made me more determined.   I sort of knew that I wasn't welcome in our armed forces, but being young and terminally idealistic, I wasn't going to let that stop me.  It didn't stop me, but it wasn't easy.

The first thunder of warning came at the induction center on the first day.  I was one of four thousand young men, at 6 AM. going through the induction day indoctrination, medical exam, and swearing in.  At one point a Petty Officer stood on a table and shouted, "All right mother f....rs, line up! Nuts to Butts!  I want you so close to the man in front of you that he starts to smile, if he laughs back off a little!"  This was 'a brief introduction to homophobic military humor.' Everyone chuckled.  To me it was a thunderclap of warning!  I was scared that if I laughed too hard, everyone would know and I'd be out before I was in.  It was just mildly amusing to all the young men that were there; to me it was a terrifying warning of what to expect.

And then there was 'The Question' by the shrink in the middle of the medical exam.  "Any problem with homosexuality?"  That was IT, the dreaded moment.  So I answered, "um, noooo."  And then the doctor mumbled, "NEXT!" and it was over, simple as that.  After that, we were directed to face forward towards the flag, raise our right hands, and be Sworn In.  Boom!  Too late now, I was in.

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