By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Maryland Congressman Anthony Brown has joined a group of bi-partisan representatives who are vigorously challenging President Donald J. Trump’s ban on transgender soldiers serving in the military. Sources close to the Congressman, who served in the U.S. Army, said he has never been more “worked up” about an issue as he is about this.
The former lieutenant governor of Maryland joined New York Democrat Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and California Democrat Rep. Jackie Speier, chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, in co-sponsoring a bill that would protect transgender troops and prevent the Defense Department from essentially terminating their opportunities for performing service to the nation due to their gender identity.
Congressman Anthony Brown (D-MD) is rallying in support of transgender military service. (Courtesy Photo)
“The president’s bigoted decision to ban transgender Americans from serving in the military carries with it echoes of some of the most ignorant, intolerant moments in our history that saw women, Black Americans, gays and lesbians barred from fully participating in our Armed Forces,” said Rep. Brown.
During a contentious hearing with the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel, Brown railed heavily against James Stewart, the Pentagon’s top personnel official. Stewart told the House Armed Services Committee’s personnel panel that the military should keep President Trump’s proposed ban on recruits who have gender dysphoria — the psychological distress caused when a person’s physical or assigned gender conflicts with how they identify — due to the “the accommodations required for gender transition treatments.”
Stewart, however, was careful to explain that transgender soldiers who have had the surgery can still enlist but should not be denied the right to serve altogether. He did appear to express underlying reservations though while using the model that U.S. Armed Services does not allow service by those with preexisting medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes or cancer, to enlist or serve.
“We are not talking about heart surgery and diabetes,” Brown shot back to Stewart. “We are talking about a group of Americans who identify as transgender. I have never seen a group of Americans who are prone to heart attacks who come lobbying to Congress and saying, ‘Give us the right to serve even though the risk of heart attack is very great because I have already had three or four.’ That is mixing apples and oranges.”
Brown equates the discrimination against transgender soldiers to the struggles of minorities who previously tried to integrate the military. The Maryland Congressman fiercely chiseled away at the arguments by Stewart and Navy Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, director of the Defense Health Agency.
“I hear about special accommodations,” said Brown in a terse but resigned tone. “The same thing was said about African Americans when they wanted to enter an integrated Army in 1948. Same thing was said about gay, lesbian and bisexual members who wanted to serve.”
According to Politico.com, the issues regarding active duty service for transgender soldiers are not any greater than for other personnel. Military instructors have begun to debunk the assertion that transgender military personnel need more time off than their fellow troops, which has been reportedly corroborated by the Pentagon’s own data.
“The Pentagon’s own data show that 393 service members with gender dysphoria have deployed to the Middle East, and of those, only one was unable to complete the deployment for mental health reasons,” according to a statement on Congressman Brown’s website.
While the Trump administration continues to battle for the enacting of its policy, it remains delayed by a series of court battles over its constitutionality. Until it can be resolved, the Obama-era policy still remains in effect.