Throughout our country’s history, brave and selfless members of our military have risked and given their lives to defend the liberty we all enjoy — and we’ve come a long way toward giving all Americans equal opportunity to serve with the dignity and respect they have earned. Most recently, the honor of serving our country in the military was extended to transgender Americans.
Today, thousands of transgender active duty service members are defending our most fundamental freedoms with their lives. We still have a long way to go, but President Trump and his allies are trying to roll back the progress we have worked so hard to make at the expense of our national security.
In a stunning reversal, President Trump — who has never served — called himself a “brave soldier” in his “personal Vietnam” of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases from the “landmines” of his sexual partners, and blamed sexual assault in the military on the women in uniform who survive it — announced via Twitter that he will no longer “accept or allow” transgender individuals in our military.
This discriminatory move will keep patriots such as Paula Sophia Schonauer, an Army Veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm before returning to her community to serve as a police officer, from serving their country. She earned an FBI Community Leadership Award, and ran for the Oklahoma Statehouse, losing her election by only 22 votes. She has been an adjunct professor at Rose State College and Oklahoma City Community College, and this year earned her master’s of social work to continue her lifelong service to others. And Paula Sophia is, like thousands of Americans dedicated to serving, transgender.
Transgender people already serve in the military with honor. The thousands of active duty transgender service members come from all walks of life and are from all kinds of racial and ethnic backgrounds. They want to live full lives and have their rights respected just as any other American. And like everyone else, they want to enjoy the rights and freedoms they are fighting for. Requiring these brave Americans to serve in silence and in hiding is unacceptable.
This move is yet another reminder of why it is important to get more women in elected office at every level of government, because we know that their voices are important at the decision making table. And why EMILY’s List has supported transgender women in the past such as Paula Sophia Schonauer and Dana Beyer; and in this cycle, we are supporting Danica Roem, the first transgender candidate in Virginia. When all women’s voices are heard in the halls of power, our policies will treat all Americans with equal dignity and respect.
Sadly, another discriminatory policy from this administration would not be a surprise given that these decisions are being made by mostly white men behind closed doors. Instead of building on the progress we’ve made on these issues, President Trump is intent on going backwards. We knew from his many statements during the election of his great antipathy toward LGBTQ Americans, but it is beyond the pale to act on this and actively push policies that discriminate against them.
Transgender people already face many barriers in our society. They lack basic legal workforce protections, and endure discrimination and violence in their daily lives. Discrimination of any kind is simply un-American. It is wrong to deny patriotic brave men and women basic civil rights, who sacrifice so much through their service. All members of our military willing to put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms should be protected and treated equally under the law.
Our military represents the best of America: a meritocracy of brave men and women from all backgrounds united in the common mission of defending our freedoms — men and women willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for us. We must support all of our troops, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and last but not least, gender identity. The EMILY’s List community stands in solidarity with LGBTQ families everywhere, and will fight back against this president – and the Republicans in Congress who continue to prop up his radical agenda – every step of the way.
Stephanie Schriock is president of EMILY’S List.