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The U.S. military has been criticized for celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month even though President Trump’s ban on transgender service members remains in place.
The Palm Center, an independent, nonpartisan research institute that analyzes U.S. military personnel policy and advocates for LGBTQ inclusion in the Armed Forces, slammed the military’s recognition of Pride Month, calling it the “ultimate hypocrisy.”
In recognition of June as Pride Month, several branches of the military issued statements celebrating the occasion. The Army released a statement saying, “Welcoming diversity within the formation increases talent, morale, and effectiveness, and upholds the Army values of integrity and respect.” The release also included stories from three service members who are members of the LGBTQ community, reflecting on the positive changes within the military in terms of acceptance, and on how they and others can advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ community.
The Marine Corps also issued a statement saying the branch is “committed to living the values we defend and treating everyone equally, and with dignity and respect.”
“[T]he Marine Corps takes pride in building strength through diversity,” the statement reads. “The Corps is dedicated to promoting a professional environment free from personal, social, or institutional barriers that prevent Marines from reaching their full potential. This June, Commanders and leaders are encouraged to take time to recognize the 2020 LGBT Pride Month, and promote participation in observance events throughout their local communities.”
But Palm Center Director Aaron Belkin balked at the statements, pointing to the transgender ban as evidence of hypocrisy.
“It boggles the mind that, during Pride Month, our military would claim to honor and recognize service members in the ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, [and] transgender’ community while simultaneously banning transgender Americans from serving,” Belkin said in a statement. “Apparently the military has to be reminded of its own discriminatory policies. If the Defense Department wants to truly honor these service members and benefit from the value of genuine diversity, it will have to end this groundless ban.”
Belkin noted that an estimated 14,700 transgender Americans currently serve in the Armed Forces. But they, and any transgender person who wishes to enlist, are restricted from serving if they have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria or attempt to undergo hormone therapy, gender confirmation surgery or other treatments to assist in a gender transition.
Asked why the branches of the military decided to recognize Pride Month in the first place — especially given the Trump administration’s relative hostility to the LGBTQ community, Belkin told Metro Weekly that their motives remain unclear.
“What is clear is that President Trump has been gaslighting about LGBTQ rights for five years. He said during his campaign that he was going to be the LGBTQ community’s greatest friend,” Belkin said. [But] Ever since he became president, he has started to attack us, I think unjustly so. We don’t know if the Pentagon is gaslighting or not, but what is clear is that they have put in place ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ for transgender troops.”
Belkin also noted that attitudes within the military have shifted on the inclusion of LGBTQ service members, even those who are transgender, as has public opinion, which now favors allowing transgender individuals to serve in uniform based on their gender identity, according to various polls.
All service chiefs have previously testified that the Obama administration’s policy lifting the ban on transgender service did not disrupt unit cohesion, harm military readiness, or cause other problems.
“Inclusive policy for transgender troops was working. The service chiefs said it was working,” Belkin said. “President Trump and Mike Pence put them put a ban in place for no reason. That ban is harming all 14,700 transgender troops. And for the military to include transgender pride in its Pride celebration, as if there were no ban, is the ultimate hypocrisy.”
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