This story is based on interviews conducted by Loida Albarez, Lorynne Benavides, Alexis Burkett, Hadley Butler, Abigail Farrer, Seth Gonzales, Brandon Gutierrez, Jadie Hargrove, Deandre Hogg, Hannah Holmes, Rachel LaCroix, Shelby Lawless, Hannah Mabry, Tierra Mauney, Bryonnah McCarty, Kyonnah McCarty, Cam Nellum, Kylee Newman, Makenzie Plusnick, Destiny Ross, Ronald Russek, Joseph Seaman, Robyn Tanter, Bailey Templin, Jordyn Tipps, McKenzie Tucker and Caroline Wolf. —
Last month the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated President Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military. A federal court in Washington, D.C., blocked the ban in 2017, ruling that it could violate transgender military members’ constitutional rights.
Transgender people should be allowed to serve in the U.S. military under certain conditions, said a majority of Tarleton students who were interviewed about the issue.
Texan News interviewed 35 students representing a variety of ages and majors. Of those interviewed, 23 – almost two-thirds — did not agree with the Supreme Court decision and said they thought transgender people should be allowed to serve. Some, though, cited exceptions to how transgender service people should be housed.
Nine of those interviewed supported the Supreme Court’s move. Some of them said allowing transgender people to serve could cost more money and create security problems.
Three people did not have an opinion about the controversial issue.
Ashley Daniels, a junior marketing major, summed up the view of many students: “I think it’s a very sensitive topic that is hard to deal with.”
Lane Rathke, a senior criminal justice major, was among the 23 students who said transgender people should be able to serve in the military if they want to and are able to do the work.
“If they want to fight for our country, then why not let them?” Rathke asked. “It’s a free country, who cares what you classify yourself as? You join knowing your job and the risks…. If they can get through basic training and serve just like anyone else, why stop them?”
Added Chasity Lopez, a junior business major: “I respect any person who would put their life on the line to protect me and my family, regardless of their gender, age, color, et cetera.”
Sophomore communications major Keyontea Cooper agreed.
“This is their country too, so I don’t really understand what the problem is,” he said. “Especially because of the fact that they want to fight, and there are so many people that don’t want to fight. So why (not) just let the people fight that want to fight, no matter what they look like?”
While freshman Joshua Powers said he thought transgender people should be allowed to serve, he said they should have their surgeries before they join “so that the military is not paying for their personal choices, so the military money is going to the right place and their personal money is going to their personal ways.”
Skileya Mitchell, senior education major, said there’s already a lack of people willing to join the military, so there should not be further restrictions.
“If they can pass training and everything else required of others, there is no other valid argument to justify not letting them join other than feelings or own personal beliefs that not everyone lives by,” she said.
Dante Hoelting, a psychology major, agreed no one should be barred from military service, especially since it’s on a volunteer basis.
“They face discrimination, prejudice and bias in their own country, and you want to bar them because you’re uncomfortable?” he said. “This ban that the president is implementing comes from no other place than his own bias and counsel from advisors who have not served in the military or don’t know how the military operates.”
Coming from a military family, Alexa Garcia, sophomore communications major, said anyone wanting to serve should be allowed to “because they are sacrificing their own lives and time and personal things they could be doing elsewhere such as family time to protect our rights, so if they want to serve they should be able to.”
Luke Munchrath, a senior communications major, called the decision “a step back in equal rights. “If someone wants to serve their country, do it,” he said.
Special accommodations for housing
Some students said they believed the military needed to make housing accommodations for transgender military personnel.
“If they want to join and serve, that’s their prerogative, but it’s the people that they’re joining alongside that were born female or male and still are that gender should have the right to say, ‘I don’t want to room with that person’,” said senior Megan Grosce. “So there should maybe be different housing like there is male housing, there is female housing… but there should be transgender housing as well. The only exceptions should be housing and restroom facilities.”
Added Ashlee Price, a freshman nursing student: “I don’t have a problem with transgender people in the military – however, when it comes to certain things, there needs to be rules, such as living situations.”
Approve of the decision, don’t think they should serve
Students who agreed with the Supreme Court decision cited concerns about money and making non-transgender military members uncomfortable.
“I’m totally for banning them from the military, just personally, because I think when you have that identity issue that you have other issues going on as well,” said Michaela Gassnan, junior animal science major. “From the research I did… they have more instability than a normal person, and I just don’t think anyone who as any instability regardless of their sexual identity should be in the military.”
Landry Wells, sophomore nursing major, agreed.
“The transgender population has one of the highest suicide rates and I don’t think a high-stress environment like the military is suited for someone prone to depression,” she said.
Wells also said treatment to become transgender, such as hormone therapy, is expensive.
“I don’t believe the government’s money should be spent providing access to this therapy,” Wells said.
Jared Conley, senior pre-vet major, described the Supreme Court decision as “fair.”
Part of the reason for the ban is “because of how much money the government would have to pay to accommodate these people,” Conley added.
Some students were concerned about the impact of medications on transgender military personnel.
“The military needs people to be less emotional, and with transgender people, they are ingesting a large amount of hormones that don’t naturally belong in their body,” said Lauren Butler, a junior majoring in kinesiology. “This would cause many issues when it comes to training and fighting in active duty, such as anxiety, emotional distress, constant health regulation, and a larger expense than the normal individual.”
Trent Robinson, a sophomore business major, added: “The reason they (transgender people) are being banned is because of the medication they are on,” Robinson said. “This medication you cannot get out in the field and it makes them very unstable emotionally.”
Michael McDonald, a sophomore mechanical engineering technologies major, said he believes transgender military personnel also could create a security issue.
“Most trans people I have met want special accommodations or wish to be placed with the gender of which they identify, which could potentially cause problems to other soldiers or cause them discomfort,” he said.
McDonald added he would not want to be placed in a barrack with a transgender person.
“I have no issue with women and men joining, however a trans person to me is different,” he said. “All the hormones they take could possibly make them unstable in an emotional way.”
English major Caitlyn Oxford stressed she is not against transgender people, but that allowing them to serve in the military could cause problems.
“In order for the military to work, it requires a lot of camaraderie,” she said. “I think that (allowing) transgender and non-binary makes it hard to form those close relationships and trust.”
The Texas A&M University System has a strong relationship with the military through its ROTC program and Corps of Cadets. The system also has a non-discrimination policy that covers gender identity.
Texas A&M University’s policy states that “the system will provide equal opportunity for employment to all persons regardless of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, sexual orientation or gender identity and will strive to achieve full and equal employment opportunity through the system.”
Assistant Professor of Philosophy Dr. Karl Aho said he found the Supreme Court decision “surprising” and one that could clash with A&M policy.“I think it’s a surprising policy decision because there is language protecting the rights of transgender folks in…in both federal and state agencies,” he said.
He noted A&M’s strong relationship with the military.
“We have the Corps of Cadets here, we’ve got all of the programs down at the mothership in College Station,” Dr. Aho said. “If that’s the policy of the system but the policy for the services is different, that is a striking clash and, I think, a strange decision.”
Increased hostility possible
Some students said they thought the Supreme Court decision could increase hostility to transgender people.
“We live in a society where everyone should feel equal,” said K-Lee Dunn, a junior psychology major. “It’s a very big setback for their personal human rights.”
Haylee Session, a senior criminal justice major, agreed.
“It’s a major setback for them,” she said. “People are people; it doesn’t matter what they identify as like, gender identity.”
“This nation is full of hateful people and, sadly, some may see this as an opportunity to bully and harass transgender people,” Wells said.
Rathke added: “Treat everyone as you’d want to be treated. What everyone learned growing up. It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, brown, gay, lesbian, transgender…the list can go on and on. If you respect them and they respect you, then there’s no reason to treat them any different.”