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Col. Jennifer Pritzker: Trump’s transgender ban a ‘huge step backward’

Dozens of protesters gather near a military recruitment center in New York on Wednesday to show their anger at President Donald Trump's decision to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Last year, when former President Barack Obama announced that transgender people could serve openly in the military I was pleased. As a retired U.S. Army officer and a transgender woman, this news was validating and a step in the right direction. But, when I woke up and saw President Donald Trump’s tweets about barring the transgender community from serving in the Armed Forces in any capacity, I was disheartened. The thought that the transgender community will need to hide who they are again is a huge step backward.

Being a transgender woman, I had to hide who I was during my time in service. This can be a monumental task. Waking up every day and pretending to be something you’re not is extremely difficult and mentally exhausting. I was hopeful, after Obama’s announcement, that future service men and woman would not have to walk this same path.

OPINION

The research has been done, and there have been extensive studies done on the topic. Generals and admirals from the Armed Forces, as well as multiple surgeons general, have agreed. These studies prove that service by transgender personnel will not harm combat readiness, morale or discipline and it will impose no significant financial burden on the defense budget.

I can’t express enough how strongly I disagree with Trump’s statement. As commander in chief, the president has authority to influence policy over who serves in the Armed Forces of the United States. What he says will help shape the opinion of millions of other Americans. He holds great responsibility, and directly contradicting what we know about transgender personnel serving in the Armed Forces is extremely irresponsible of him. Again, the research speaks for itself.

President Trump’s statement hurts our Armed Forces and shows a callous disregard for the rights of American citizens. Furthermore, it shows little or no effort on the president’s part to thoughtfully consider the issue. His statement alienates many who would otherwise support him. The vast majority of Americans see no threat to their interests from open military service by transgender personnel. This careless statement will not help the president advance his agenda in any way.

There are thousands of transgender veterans and those currently serving who have, by subordinating their personal identities, made enormous personal sacrifice to serve their country. Virtually all of them have served and are serving honorably; many with distinction and heroism. They are no different from other military personnel. I would like to personally thank all of them. I would also like to thank every other man and woman who serves our nation, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation or religion.

I know President Trump can be educated on this subject. The statement in his tweet was impulsive and displays his lack of knowledge on the subject. I am more than willing to personally work with the president to find a better solution. I urge the president to please listen and educate himself before he sends out another impulsive and misinformed tweet.

Col. Jennifer Pritzker is president and CEO of TAWANI Enterprises, Inc, founder and president of the TAWANI Foundation, founder and chair of the Pritzker Military Museum & Library, and chairwoman of the Board for Squadron Capital.

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