When the Supreme Court revived a military ban on transgender people in January, Max Tindall’s heart broke.
“At first, I was angry,” said Tindall, a junior journalism major who identifies as nonbinary. “It feels like your country hates you. But I wasn’t even that surprised.”
The ban, which was first tweeted out by President Donald Trump in July 2017, was intended to reduce what he called the “tremendous medical costs” the military pays for gender-affirming surgeries and other procedures. However, an analysis of the 2017 Department of Defense budget conducted by the University of Pennsylvania concluded that these claims are unjustified.
On Thursday, bipartisan senators Susan Collins, R-Maine; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Jack Reed, D-R.I., introduced legislation that would contradict and reverse this ban, citing it as discriminatory. There is also companion bipartisan legislation in the House.
“It is an insult to the brave and patriotic transgender Americans who choose to serve in our military,” Gillibrand told NBC News.
Rose McLaughlin, a sophomore anthropology major and former member of her high school ROTC program at Owen J. Roberts High School in Chester County, identifies as a transgender woman.
In her experience with ROTC, coordinators welcomed students from the LGBTQIA+ community into the group and described ROTC as a place where LGBTQIA+ students were equal to everyone else, McLaughlin said.
Looking back, she believes transphobia and discrimination existed in the military even before the ban, she added. She is no longer considering a career in the military.
“It’s hard to have hope, [but] things usually get a lot worse before they get better, so I generally try to be a hopeful person,” Mclaughlin said.
The New York Times now calls the ban “complicated,” writing that it could put soldiers who have yet to transition or come out as transgender at risk for discharge, but those already openly transgender may continue to serve.
“America hates trans people,” Tindall said. “[That] is straight up what this [ban] reflects.”
Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a combat veteran of Iraq who lost both her legs in battle, has also spoken out against the ban.
“When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter on that dusty field in Iraq, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to save me were gay, straight, transgender, Black, white, male or female,” Duckworth said in an Instagram video on Jan. 28. “All that mattered was that they didn’t leave me behind.”
Duckworth added that the ban was “careless” and “dangerous.”
“Trump is discriminating against some of the bravest people among us,” Duckworth said.
“I hope the court takes up this case and makes clear to the president that this kind of bigotry has no place in our armed forces,” she added.
Tony Clark, a senior history major and former board member of Queer People of Color who identifies as a transgender man, believes there is still potential for progress despite the ban.
“One of the greatest things we can do in the era of social media is to raise awareness about these issues,” Clark said.
Calling Congress members to advocate for the trans community is another step people can take to help trans people, Clark added.
“The call to action is to not remain silent,” Clark said. “It doesn’t mean going to the nearest protest of Trump and talking all day and all night on Facebook or Twitter about these issues. But it could mean talking to your grandfather who might not be very open-minded.”
For Tindall, a supportive community could be what it takes for them to feel hope again, they said.
“These are my people,” Tindall added. “Surround yourself with the people that love you.”