Anti-Trans Legislation Is Becoming a National Security Issue

Anti-Trans Legislation Is Becoming a National Security Issue

Anti-Trans Legislation Is Becoming a National Security IssueAnti-Trans Legislation Is Becoming a National Security IssueBans on gender-affirming care are forcing some military families to seek compassionate reassignment.

By Colleen Hamilton

Yesterday 5:00 am

May 23, 2023

There are few experiences as quintessentially American—at least in the Friday Night Lights sense—as marrying your military-bound high school sweetheart. That is the story of Lindsey Lee’s life. She met her husband in high school and they married shortly thereafter. When he decided to attend the Air Force Academy, they moved to Colorado as a team, and later had two children. In the past 20 years, the family has moved almost a dozen times, crisscrossing the country for military assignments they could not predict nor control. “I’m proud of us,” Lee says with a gentle laugh as she recalls the experience of uprooting their small family again and again.

That has always been a basic function of military living. Certain states specialize in different military needs: naval ship-building on the coast of Florida or space policy in Colorado. Soldiers are “assigned” to states where their skills are needed, ensuring that the military has the right people in the right place at the right time in preparation for an attack.

However, members of the military and their families are being forced to refuse assignments in certain states by laws that limit access to bathrooms, sports teams, and gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary children. As a result, many of these families are seeking compassionate reassignment, which enables them to relocate for a year, or making the life-changing decision to leave the military altogether.

The impact of the past three years’ unprecedented and unconstitutional explosion of anti-trans legislation has found itself right on the Lee family’s doorstep. They have a child who is receiving gender-affirming care, which has been proven to significantly reduce suicidal ideation and self-harm among trans and nonbinary teens experiencing acute gender dysphoria. At the same time, Lee’s husband was recently promoted to colonel, one of the highest ranks in the military. As a result, he is up for reassignment.

“We can’t ever go back to Florida,” Lee says. Just last week, Florida Governor Ron Desantis passed a sweeping slate of anti-LGBTQ bills that, among other things, ban gender-affirming-care and impose new restrictions on adults seeking treatment.

“We couldn’t go to Texas. We couldn’t go to so many of these horrifying states passing these bills,” she says. “They’re just not safe.” Although they have requested to stay in Colorado, where their child is currently receiving care, their future is uncertain. There is a strong chance that her husband will be assigned to a state with a ban, which would mean splitting up their family, petitioning for reassignment, or retiring from the military altogether.

What would have once been a routine, albeit frustrating, reassignment process has become a defining moment for Lee’s family and her husband’s career. If he decides to retire rather than move, the family could lose thousands of dollars in retirement funds and the military would lose a decorated colonel. Despite these costs and his years of service, Lee says, ensuring continuity of care for their child remains their top priority.

“When it comes down to protecting your kid, you do what you have to do.” She’s not alone. According to MilPride, a nonprofit advocacy organization, there are over 40,000 LGBTQ+ youth with parents in the military. As discriminatory laws continue to be passed in states with Republican leadership, these parents will be forced to make the impossible choice between defending their children and defending their country.

In the first four months of 2023 alone, there have been more than 469 anti-LGBTQ+ laws introduced in state legislatures across the United States, according to the ACLU. These bills are wide-ranging, from bans on books that feature gay penguins to censorship of drag performances in public spaces. However, trans and nonbinary youth have been particularly targeted by legislation. Republicans have zeroed in on children, establishing a legal and political context through which to later pass bans on gender-affirming care for transgender and nonbinary adults.

What’s more, bans on gender-affirming care are concentrated in states with high military populations, which often have Republican-led state legislatures. Five of the six states—Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and North Carolina—with the highest number of active-duty troops currently have proposed or passed bans on gender-affirming care. These states represent 41 percent of the active-duty troop population, according to MilPride.

Unlike reports of civilian families with transgender children who can leave the state once a ban on gender-affirming care comes into effect, military members are at the mercy of the service. “When military families are faced with living in a state where their child won’t have equal access at school, to a sports team, bathrooms or access to health care,” says Cathy Morello, director of MilPride, “they are making decisions to alter their careers, including leaving the military.”

This comes at an acute moment for the military, which has a deficit of thousands of troops due to a strong labor market, fitness tests that many Americans can no longer pass, and the abiding sense that the military is not accepting of a wide variety of backgrounds. If families decide to leave the service due to anti-LGBTQ+ laws, they leave a gap that may very well go unfilled. Passing laws that force people to leave the military is yet another example of the GOP’s incoherent policy-making strategy, and the attendant reality that its singular goal is to maintain political power, even if doing so means scapegoating children and weakening national security.

There are two programs that are currently being utilized by members of the military to remain enlisted and protect their children: compassionate reassignment and the Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP.

Compassionate reassignment allows families to move for one year so that a family member can access life-saving medical treatment. Families are utilizing compassionate reassignment to leave states such as Florida in order to access care in sanctuary states like California. The other option for these families is applying for an EFMP. These allows someone to share their needs before they are assigned. Lee’s family, for example, was prepared to file an EFMP in order to stay at their base in Colorado.

These two policies were crafted to protect military family members who experienced sudden illness abroad and had to come home for treatment or who had a family member with special needs. Alleria Stanley, who is a veteran and transgender advocate, utilized compassionate reassignment when her wife received a breast cancer diagnosis while their family was stationed in Germany. They were granted compassionate reassignment and Stanley’s wife received treatment in the United States. The policy was created to address immediate, short-term medical crises—not state laws.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen these policies used as a result of discrimination,” says Jacob Eleazer, a veteran, physician, and board member of SPARTA, a nonprofit organization that advocates for transgender people in the military. Since compassionate reassignment and EFMPs were crafted for emergency situations, advocates say they do not adequately protect transgender and nonbinary children.

One family, for example, utilized compassionate reassignment to relocate from Oklahoma to North Carolina. A few weeks later,  » …
Read More

0 I like it
0 I don't like it