As Michael Cohen's hearing stole the show on Wednesday, the Military Personnel Subcommittee of the House of Representatives of the Armed Forces held its own transgender ban hearing by President Donald Trump. After hearing testimony from a group of five trans members, two government officials then tried to defend the ban – and ended up doing so by comparing being transgender and having an illness.
James N. Stewart, who currently serves as Deputy Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, summed up the familiar arguments of the administration. On several occasions he insisted that the policy was neither a "ban" nor a "transgender" target. Instead, he said that it only concerned people with gender dysphoria and was therefore not discriminatory. Vice-Admiral Raquel Bono, Director of the Health and Defense Agency, also testified that medical reasons justified not allowing people with gender dysphoria.
With the exception of Representative Trent Kelly (R-MS), who was willing to allow transgender people to serve, only the Democratic members of the committee asked questions, and they all tried to eliminate the demands of Stewart and Bono. Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), who chairs the subcommittee, said she was "surprised" by their arguments, and Representative Lori Trahan (D-MA) said it cost three times more to train a single driver. provides a year-long value of transition-related medical services throughout the military.
Many members pointed out that all major medical organizations had rejected the ban, leaving Bono claiming that the military had its own data to justify it. But she could not in any way explain how they determined, for example, that the introduction of hormone replacement therapy would result in 12 months of non-deployability, insisting that science was still evolving.
Another of his claims was that members of services with gender dysphoria perform many more behavioral therapy visits. MP Susan Davis (D-MA) asked questions about this, noting that the military asked them to visit once a week. It is therefore hypocritical to reproach them. Davis also pointed out that, given the mental tension of military service, it should be considered a good thing that members of the service seek such support and not something for which they are punished.
A frustrated representative, Veronica Escobar (D-TX), ended her question by asking, "How is this not discrimination?" The question prompted Stewart to repeat his abstention that politics was a condition and not an identity. But this argument also failed once the representative Anthony Brown (D-MD) began his heated interrogation.
Brown put forward a hypothesis: if anyone came forward to join and who had already undergone a transition and no longer suffered from gender dysphoria, could he enlist? "No," Stewart replied. "It's the ban. This is the prohibition! Said Brown.
Stewart and Bono, however, tried to double. They claimed that the surgeries that such a trans person would have had were comparable to other disqualifying surgeries, such as cardiac surgery. In other words, they directly compared being a happy, healthy and qualified transgender person to serve a person with a debilitating illness. Brown called blatant discrimination.
Speier tried to follow Brown's questions. "You are talking about a health problem, Mr. Stewart," she said, noting that the transition reduces gender dysphoria and there is no comparable health problem. Stewart maintained that the transition was like other disqualifying surgeries. "You do not help your case," Speier replied.
Bono tried to give another example of someone who had been diagnosed with cancer and who had suffered surgery to treat it. "Even if someone has had a diagnosis of cancer and that he has had surgery that cures his cancer and is in remission, because they've had that diagnosis and that surgery has been they are excluded from military service, "she says.
Speier did not buy it. "If you have gone through a transitional operation and you can meet all the physical standards, how can we prevent that person from serving?" She said. "You are in – you are in a difficult position."
It was a pretty amazing demonstration that the administration has no reason to ban people in transition. In addition, comparing being transgender to having an illness at best reflects a profound misunderstanding of gender identity, but perhaps also a lack of understanding of gender identity. a blatant animosity against transgender people.
"As the testimony of today makes clear, this is a discriminatory ban on transgender people willing and able to serve their country," said the legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Shannon Minter, in a statement. NCLR is currently litigating two of the country's four cases challenging the ban.
Perhaps most noteworthy, Stewart and Bono's comments came just an hour after a group of trans members testified before Congress for the very first time. Several of them also testified before the study committee which then implemented the ban. They explained to the subcommittee how much better they could do their job after the transition, what support they received from their military colleagues, and how their medical procedures had a minimal impact on their deployability.
When Trahan asked this group what were the most difficult moments of his military service up to now, many answered that it was the day Trump had tweeted the ban. Captain Jennifer Peace said that she was enjoying a vacation "when I woke up with the tweets of the President of the United States. I think that's when, for the first time, I really asked, "Why am I still getting up and putting on this uniform when I'm not able to serve ? " Why should I wait to deploy and risk my life again when the people I serve do not even want me here?
Congress has proposed a bill to reverse Trump's ban, but it is unclear whether he will be able to muster sufficient support in the Republican-controlled Senate.