Yesterday, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to transgender members of the military. It granted the Trump administration’s request to allow it to exclude most transgender people from serving in the armed forces, at least temporarily.
Sig Christenson covers the military for the San Antonio Express-News, and has been reporting on one transgender man, Aaron Longa, who’s been trying to join the Air Force for several years. Christenson says Longa decided about four years ago that he wanted to serve, in part, to honor his grandfather who served in World War II, but also to experience a sense of community with other service members who bond over shared successes and hardships.
Christenson says Longa told him, “‘I just felt honor-bound that I had to do this.'”
But Christenson says Longa faces many hurdles if he still hopes to join the Air Force, especially after the Supreme Court decision. The Trump administration’s restrictions include barring transgender people who are in the middle of or have already transitioned to the gender with which they identify (as opposed to what they were assigned at birth).
“If you are a transgender person who has already undergone transition, you can’t join,” Christenson says. “[But] if you’re not in transition, if you’re still your birth sex, yes, you can join, but there are hurdles.”
He says Longa is still submitting paperwork to the Military Entrance Processing Station, and is waiting for his physical examination. If Longa gets to that point in the process and passes the physical, he’d be able to join.
“That’s what he wants, but so far, he’s not getting there, and he’s not getting there because the Air Force is being very careful about this,” Christenson says.
For transgender people already serving in the military, Christenson says they’ll be able to stay. But he says if any of them decided to transition now, it could put their job at risk.
“If you were going to think about transitioning, don’t. That’s exactly what will get you in trouble,” Christenson says. “[But] you can also serve openly. So, you can say, ”I’m transgender,’ just like people who are gay can say, ‘I’m gay.'”
In the meantime, Christenson says the Department of Defense won’t carry out the ban until a Baltimore court rules whether an existing injunction on the ban can stay in effect.
“The Pentagon is not going to implement this policy until it is [resolved],” Christenson says.
Written by Caroline Covington.