By Brian K. Bond, (he/him) | Executive Director
From the time it was instituted in 1993, the discriminatory practice known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” worked to rob our nation. It took away the talent and expertise of patriots committed to service in defense of our country. It weakened unit cohesion, and it told lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the force that they were not equal to their fellow servicemembers.
I had the privilege to have worked as part of the Obama-Biden administration to repeal that law 10 years ago. However, the remnants of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” have been felt especially by transgender servicemembers and servicemembers who have transgender family members who were targeted specifically by the Trump administration.
Until recently, many brave patriots who are transgender have served openly in service of their country. When the last administration issued its ban on service by transgender people in 2017, the ban did not only affect those who wear the uniform. It also impacted military dependents, including PFLAG families across the country. Among the more than 400 chapters of PFLAG are chapters associated with or serving military base communities. Our members include both openly LGBTQ+ servicemembers and servicemembers whose children are LGBTQ+.
Trump’s trans military ban executive order, which was enacted unilaterally and without the backing of military brass, prevented transgender servicemembers from obtaining gender-affirming health care and from serving openly as their true gender. Lesser known is that the ban also prevented a service member from obtaining full access to gender-affirming care for their transgender dependents. As we hear from PFLAG families in the military all the time: families who serve have lost key elements of health care for their children, have found themselves shunned on base, or have had to move to find health care, inclusive education, and safe housing.
President Biden is soon expected to take the much-needed step to rectify the harm caused by Trump’s trans military ban. The rescission of this harmful policy recognizes that when we demand that those who wish to serve keep a part of their lives secret, when we perpetuate systems of inequality or disrupt unit cohesion, we weaken our military readiness. We as a nation must do better by the brave people and families who make up our military force. President Biden has taken a first and necessary step. PFLAG commits to working with our elected leaders in Congress and the Biden-Harris administration to prioritize making ours a fully inclusive military and to completely end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”