On Tuesday, Major General Mathew Beevers of the California National Guard told lawmakers that the state would not be removing transgender soldiers or airmen from their ranks despite the Trump administrations ban.
“As long as you fight, we don’t care what gender you identify as,” said Beevers.
“Anybody who is willing and able to serve state and nation should have the opportunity to serve. It’s unconscionable in my mind that we would fundamentally discriminate against a certain class of people based on their gender identity,” Beevers added, “that should be the absolute least of our worries.”
General Beevers made the statements while addressing the Assembly Veterans Affairs Committee. His stand comes less than one month after the Supreme Court 5-4 decision allowed Donald Trump’s 2017 transgender ban to move forward.
Trump announced the ban on Twitter. The decision reversed a policy put in place by the Obama administration that permitted individuals who identified as transgender to serve openly.
California and several other states have challenged Trump’s directive. In California, Attorney General Xavier Becerra joined with Equality California in a lawsuit that argues that Trump’s policy discriminates against transgender residents who want to enlist in the military. Maryland has also filed an appeal.
Trump wrote in his order that “he did not believe the Obama administration adequately studied military readiness when it opened the armed forces to transgender people.”
“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,” Trump added.
Beevers says that the California guard intends to work diligently with the Department of the Air Force and the Department of the Army to “bring transgender individuals in under the current policy” and added that they “will explore every avenue to ensure that transgendered people who want to serve in the California National Guard are afforded every opportunity to serve.”
A study conducted by Rand Corp. back in June 2016 concluded fewer than 6,630 transgender people serve in the military. Those numbers could be off because transgender service members do not always disclose to fellow members out of fear of retaliation. It is against the military’s policy to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; however, enforcing such a policy across multiple agencies is a great challenge.
The study also shows that only a fraction of trans military members gender-related medical treatments and that their gender-transition health costs would be “relatively low” at less than $8.4 million a year.
“The Defense Department must allow transgender people to serve openly,” said Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It’s wrong that these brave men and women — who sacrifice so much through their service to our nation — should have to fight for their rights both as active military and then as veterans.”
“The reality is that after honorably serving their country, transgender veterans often face discrimination in employment, housing, health care, and in other settings”, Nipper adds. “Transgender people must be able to serve in the military if they choose to and after their service, they must receive all benefits and services free from discrimination.”
Trump’s ban could mean that many trans individuals would have to go back into hiding. A military member identifying as transgender could be discharged. A discharge is a heavy burden to bear. A discharge would prevent the veteran from receiving medical care from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and also prevent them from applying for housing through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or other state-run housing authorities.
Beevers told lawmakers, “I believe the ban [on transgender troops] will be lifted again.”
He added that at least two transgender airmen serve in the California National Guard. He said more transgender people might serve, but the agency does not count them.
“At the end of the day, we’re not compelled to measure it, so we don’t,” he said.
Beevers told lawmakers that California transgender troops in the National Guard would be allowed to continue to serve even if they choose to pursue gender reassignment surgery.
“As long as you fight, we don’t care what gender you identify as. Nobody’s going to kick you out.” Beevers said.
California civil rights organizations celebrated Beevers’ bold statement, saying it echoes their recent challenges to Trump.
“What the California National Guard said, and what we’ve said in our lawsuit, is that the military ought to treat them just like every other servicemember,” Samuel Garrett-Pate, communications director of Equality California, told The Advocate. The LGBTQ organization has worked with California attorney general Xavier Becerra to sue the president over his ban.
“California will always champion the values of freedom, equality, and fairness — even when the president fails to,” he added.