Retired Army veteran Laila Ireland isn’t about to let President Trump kick trans people out of the military without putting up a fight.
Ireland, a trans woman herself, took the stage at GLAAD’s San Francisco Gala to give a speech rejecting the administration’s plans to ban people like her from serving openly in the military. While she’s retired, her husband, Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland, is still on active duty.
Ireland’s speech took aim at Trump’s unfounded claim that letting trans people serve in the military is some sort of burdensome expense (the estimated total cost of providing health care for trans service members is between $2.4 and $8.4 million per year, or roughly one-fifth of what the military already spends on Viagra), and highlighted a number of the key roles that trans service members are currently filling. To remove these patriotic Americans from their posts and to deny trans people the same right as everyone else to serve their country is not only harmful for the trans community, but for the military and country as a whole.
In her speech, Ireland called on military leaders to speak up and voice opposition to the ban before it’s too late.
“It is my hope that our military leaders will quickly acknowledge that transgender troops should get the same freedoms and integrity we so courageously protect,” said Ireland. It’s a message that extends beyond just military service.
Perhaps she’s right. Perhaps a strong show of support from military leaders and veterans for the role trans service members play in keeping our country safe could change the course of the plan to re-institute a ban on trans service, expected to be put in place by March 2018.
Sadly, though, the ban on military service is just one of several ongoing attacks against trans people in America.
The Trump administration has adjusted how it interprets civil rights legislation and nondiscrimination policies when it comes to employment, health care, housing, public accommodations, education, and so much more. Trump’s Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, has shown himself to be brutally anti-trans — as have a number of other members of Trump’s administration. Though it’s easy to conclude that whatever progress for trans rights Trump undoes can simply be redone by the next administration, it’s nowhere near that easy.
Allies are needed now more than ever before to help hold the line on the progress that’s been made before it’s too late.
There are an estimated 1.4 million transgender people living in the U.S., which in the larger sense, is still a pretty tiny sliver of the population, making the group easy to pick on. Sadly, since the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was now the law of the land, many of the organizations and politicians that had been fighting against the push for marriage have since turned their focus to trans people.
The good news is that a majority of the public doesn’t agree with efforts to discriminate against trans people. It’s great to have those allies, but it’s even better if they’re willing to speak out against anti-trans hate, push back on politicians who support discrimination, and use their voice to fight for equality whenever possible. It’s a long battle, but if allies can help win over hearts and minds, there’s a good chance we’ll all come out on top.
Watch Laila Ireland’s powerful speech below.