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Mace & Crown | August 22, 2017

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ODU Students and Faculty React to Transgender Ban in the Military

Vann Allen Vitug | Contributing Writer

President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender service members from the military sparks discussion on campus concerning the future of transgender rights.

“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump tweeted on July 26.

These tweets have spawned a variety of reactions from students on campus. “It’s ridiculous, yet not surprising,” James Keto, ODU Alumnus and former Navy serviceman says.

Trump justifies his decision by citing its financial effects, tweeting, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

Keto claims that a ban will also have financial repercussions on the military. “One of the points brought up for the ban is how much cost it will be for the medical procedures, but removing people from the military is also time and money.”

Trump’s recent tweets have been met with some speculation from ODU students and staff. “[There will be] protests for sure. Also, there will be a lot of people removed from the military, so that will be time consuming.” Keto says. “Service members will also most likely protest, but not in uniform.”

Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a letter to military service chiefs on the issue a day after Trump issued the tweets, the New York Times reports, stating, “There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance.”

Keto also commented on the Department of Defense’s hesitation to execute Trump’s policies. “I’m glad they aren’t going along with it. With the removal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’, it’s clear that the military isn’t taking a step back in time just because there’s a new president.”

One member of the ODU Women’s Center expressed some doubt as to whether the military will actually act on the decision.

“I am a former military member, and while I was on active duty, we were under the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell policy’,” she says. “Do I think they will go back and overturn this policy? No I do not, and personally, I hope they don’t.”

However, she expresses that she understands the concerns of those in support of the ban. “I don’t think it’s completely unwarranted… I think I can understand both sides,” she says, “If you’re out, I think they need to make sure you’re comfortable showering, for example, because the genitalia are aligned.”

Still, she believes that an actual ban is not necessary, and offered some ideas on how the military can better serve its transgender service members. “Perhaps they could include a panel of them in the discussion that are going to directly have an impact on them. Maybe they could have a representative that could speak with General Mattis about these decisions.”

She also pointed out some of the work that the Women’s Center does to help the LGBTQ community on campus. “At the Women’s Center, we have a very close alliance with SAFE (Sexual Assault Free Environment), ODU Out, and other different organizations in Norfolk and around the Hampton Roads community.” she says, “Right now, we’re working with ODU Out about some fall programing to bring different speakers on campus.”

In a memo obtained by The Associated Press, sent to service chiefs and secretaries on June 30, Defense Secretary James Mattis extended the military’s review on the impact of transgender service members in the military by six months.

“After consulting with the service chiefs and secretaries, I have determined that it is necessary to defer the start of accessions for six months,” Mattis says, “We will use this additional time to evaluate more carefully the impact of such accessions on readiness and lethality.”

The Department of Defense has yet to update the policy on transgender service members on their official website, as set by former Secretary of Defense, Ash Carter.

As the military and Department of Defense continue their review of transgender policy, the students and staff at ODU remain watchful with anticipation as events continue to unfold.