Juneau’s LGBTQ community is unhappy with a Supreme Court order that clears the way for barring transgender people from serving in the military. (Unsplash | Peter Hershey)

Juneau’s LGBTQ community is unhappy with a Supreme Court order that clears the way for barring transgender people from serving in the military. (Unsplash | Peter Hershey)

Transgender ban means uncertainty for Juneau LGBTQ community

Trump’s transgender military ban is closer to reality

A Supreme Court order that could clear the way for the Trump administration’s policy barring transgender people from serving in the military has drawn the ire of Juneau’s LGBTQ community.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning Juneauites and their allies said they are generally displeased with a Tuesday’s 5-4 Supreme Court order. The order would allow the ban on transgender people serving to go into effect while lower courts challenge the policy.

“Personally, I am very disappointed in this decision,” said Southeast Alaska LBTQ+ Alliance Board Chair Melissa Hill in an interview. “Citizens of the United States of America want to protect and serve our country. These are people willing to die to protect our rights. Gender of any kind should not play into this decision.”

[LGBTQ community and allies gather for Transgender Day of Remembrance]

SEAGLA Vice Chair JoLynn Shriber shared a similar idea during SEAGLA’s Meet Up, Eat Up event Wednesday night at V’s Cellar Door.

“I’m disgusted,” Shriber said. “I’m disappointed in my government. That’s about all I can say.”

A member of Juneau’s transgender community at the Wednesday meetup expressed disappointment with the decision and marginalization of transgender people. They declined to be identified because of their place of employment.

They said the order creates an obvious parallel to “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Department of Defense’s longtime policy that ended in 2011 and barred openly non-heterosexual people from serving.

SEAGLA board member Elaine Bell said it’s disappointing that people already serving could be affected by the policy.

“If they took that as a career, they should be able to be who they are,” Bell said. “It’s unfortunate that people have to make rules based on their opinion.”

Uncertainty in Juneau and the rest of the country

The exact impact the order and policy will have in Juneau is unclear.

Capt. Allison Caputo, who is a transgender person and Chief of Maritime Law Enforcement for Sector 17 of the United States Coast Guard, declined to comment.

“Unfortunately, my guidance is I cannot provide any statement at this time,” Caputo said.

The Coast Guard directed media inquiries to a Coast Guard headquarters email address, which did not respond in time for this article.

[Holidays can be hard for the LGBTQ community]

Things are murky for the rest of the country as well, because the policy has been held up for almost two years while it lurched its way toward being put into effect.

President Donald Trump announced the controversial policy on Twitter in 2017, and it was subsequently reworked by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis and rolled out again in 2018.

However, challenges and injunctions put things on hold. The Supreme Court’s recent order would allow the ban to go into effect while those are hashed out in lower courts.

An article posted to the Department of Defense’s website states the department is pleased with the Supreme Court’s order, and it is a step toward implementing the policy.

Still, a pending decision from a circuit court in Maryland means the policy has not been implemented as of today.

In a fiery rebuke of barring transgender people, Alaskans Together for Equality Board President Elias Rojas predicted the policy will ultimately be defeated in court. Alaskans Together is a statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization.

“Every time this unconstitutional ban has been challenged in a courtroom, it has lost,” Rojas said in a statement shared Tuesday. “And we have no doubt that this trend will continue all the way to the Supreme Court. The ban will fall. In the meantime, thousands of our fellow Americans, and an unknown number of our Alaska neighbors may face discharge or be unable to enlist solely because the Commander-in-Chief ignored reality and chose to govern instead by prejudice and by Tweet.”

Who the order affects

Under the new policy, people diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a conflict between a person’s physical gender and their identified gender, are disqualified from military service.

However, the policy is not a blanket ban of all transgender people.

Those exempt from the policy include: service members who have been stable in their biological sex for three years before joining the military, service members who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria after joining can stay in the military if they don’t require a gender change and remain deployable, and transgender people without a gender dysphoria diagnosis can serve as their birth gender.

Additionally, service members who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria before the policy’s effective date can still serve and receive medical treatment.

However, the policy also states people who require gender reassignment surgery or hormone treatment could be disqualified because they would not be able to be deployed for more than a year.

Case-by-case exceptions could also be made per the policy.

[Faith-based shelter fights to keep out transgender women]

Alaskan’s Together for Equality said it’s tough to determine how many of Alaska’s 22,000 active duty military personnel and 4,700 reservists would be impacted by the policy, but said nationally there are an estimated 15,500 transgender people in Reserve and Guard forces.

“We’re talking about thousands of people who have volunteered to be our nation’s first line of defense, and whose opportunity to serve is now endangered — a decision based strictly on bigotry that the administration hasn’t bothered to give even the flimsiest disguise,” Rojas said in the shared statement. “There’s no question that the ban will eventually be reversed. In the meantime, it’s a disgrace that any American who is ready and willing to serve should be turned away solely because some people fear what they refuse to understand.”


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenHohenstatt.


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