Politics, United States

Should Transgender Americans be Allowed to Openly Serve in the Military?

From birth, we have been defined as either a male or a female. Over time, society and views have evolved, giving people an addition of ways to classify themselves. With this, comes the negative perspectives of people not accepting these differences. President Donald Trump made the declaration on Twitter, saying that American forces could not afford the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of Transgender service members. He said he had consulted generals and military experts, but Jim Mattis, the defense secretary, was given only a day’s notice about the decision. As of July 19th, 2017, Trump officially announced the ban on Transgender service in the military via twitter: “American forces could not afford the ‘tremendous medical costs and disruption’ of transgender service members”. For some, this is new news. However, Transgender Americans serving in the military has been happening for a long time including in the American Revolution and Civil War. Transgender Americans should have the right to serve in the military.

Deborah Samson, a revolutionary soldier who dressed herself as a man to serve in the military. (Wikipedia)

Playing the part of the opposite gender has always been a part of history. In the American Revolution, a woman by the name of Deborah Samson called herself Robert Shurtleff, disguised herself as a man to fight in the American Revolution. She was a Revolutionary Soldier fighting against the British and she was a part of the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment. In New York, as a soldier, Sampson was assigned to scout certain territory to evaluate the British army build-up and material in Manhattan (Michaels). Also, she was in charge of leading “30 infantrymen on an expedition that ended with a confrontation with Tories. She led a raid on a Tory home that resulted in the capture of 15 men. At the siege of Yorktown, she dug trenches, helped storm a British redoubt, and endured canon fire” (Michaels). While serving in the army for two years her true identity was never discovered. Sampson became severely sick because she was shot in her left thigh, and she yanked the bullet out herself without giving it any sort of treatment. She had become very ill, and lost consciousness. When she was in the hospital, her identity was revealed and her job as a soldier was over. Yet her fight for this country could never be taken away.                            

Transgender Americans also played a role in the Civil War. During this time, women were still not allowed to openly serve in the military, so some went as far as to dress and do what they could to portray themselves as men in order to do so. Though it is impossible to keep an accurate count, it is estimated that the number of women who served in the Civil War as men is somewhere between 400 and 750. Women served in the army for many reasons. Some thirsted for adventure, promising wages, or ardent patriotism. Sarah Edmonds Seelye was one of the best-documented women who fought in the Civil War, disguised as a man.  “In the words of Sarah Edmonds Seelye, a.k.a Franklin Flint Thomas in the 2nd Infantry: ‘I could only thank God that I was free and could go forward and work, and was not obliged to stay home and weep’”(Civil War Trust). Jenny Hodgers also served in the Civil War as a “Albert Cashier”. Hodgers’s story is different, however. She was able to fight out the entire Civil War without being discovered and ended up living the rest of her life as a man for another 50 years.

(Frances Louisa Clayton, who witnessed her husband’s death while fighting side-by-side for the Union. (Photo: Library of Congress) )

 History of Human Suffrage a manifesto written by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, argues vigorously that female front-line service proves women should be accorded the same rights as male defenders of the republic.  “The Civil War changed the nation’s perception of its citizens’ capabilities and catalyzed a new push for equality not only between races, but between genders as well”(Civil War Trust). This should be applied today as well for Transgender people who wish to serve their own country.  Rules against Transgender people in the military continue to diminish our human rights under the Constitution. The 14th amendment states, “ No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (Baltzell). This amendment should apply to Transgender Americans seeking to serve in the military as well. 

Transgender people are a part of the human population, and we need to accept that,  especially in the military. Roughly 0.6% of people in the United States are Transgender citizens (about 1.4 million).  Of the 1.4 million transgenders, over 15 thousand of them serve in the military. Now that President Donald Trump has abruptly banned Transgender Americans from serving in the military, they all lose their job of fighting for our country. Being a different gender then you were born with has occurred for years and hasn’t affected the military until Donald Trump announced that Transgender Americans could not serve in the military this past July. This has been around since the American Revolution and the Civil War where women would dress up as men to serve in the military. Women have gotten their rights but transgender rights still struggle to be established. This tremendous issue needs to end. Citizens of the United States need to come together to support our people and our rights. Transgender Americans are sacrificing their life to serve and protect our country. Transgender people need to be accepted into society without restrictions such as not being able to participate in the military. If men and women can serve in the military, why can’t transgender people? We are all people, we are all Americans, no matter who we are.

Article by Ashley Rabang & Ariel Sonenstein

Citations:

Baltzell, George W. “Constitution of the United States – We the People.” Constitution for the United States – We the People

Chappell, Bill. “Trump’s Transgender Ban In Military Will Focus On New Enlistments.” NPR, NPR, 24 Aug. 2017,

“Deborah Sampson.” Edited by Debra Michals, National Women’s History Museum, 2015,

“Female Soldiers in the Civil War.” Civil War Trust, Civil War Trust, 2017,

JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS and HELENE COOPER. “Trump Says Transgender People Will Not Be Allowed in the Military.” The New York Times, The New

     York Times, 26 July 2017,

Wilson, Barbara A. “Amazing Women in War and Peace.” Women Soldiers in the American Revolutionary War, 1996

“9 Women Who Helped Win the American Revolution.” Mental Floss, 20 Mar. 2017,

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