THE BLOG

Trump Transgender Ban Is A Huge Step Backwards

13/09/2017 15:20 BST | Updated 13/09/2017 15:20 BST
Bloomberg via Getty Images

The US Secretary of Defence's recent announcement that transgender Americans will be permitted to continue serving in the country's military for the time being has come following a disastrous few weeks in the wake of President Trump's ban.

It was truly shocking and has been rightly met by condemnation and even legal action in some quarters. He has since commended the army as 'no place for bigotry', but the potential ban is a huge step backwards in combating bigoted views and practices.

Trump's ban reversed the policy introduced by his predecessor Barack Obama that had loosened the restrictions on transgender personnel in the US military.

It is disappointing in today's society, and in a progressive and diverse country such as the USA, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people still have to face discrimination in the workplace and in many other aspects of their lives. In our work at Bolt Burdon Kemp here in the UK, we are aware of many instances of bullying and harassment in the armed forces. We continue to receive enquiries from veterans who were simply too afraid to raise complaints during service.

But on this side of the pond, the position is much more straightforward in law. The British Army welcomes transgender personnel and reassures us that those who apply to join are considered for service, only subject to meeting mental and physical entry standards that apply to all candidates. Clearly, this should be the only consideration in recruitment.

This policy is only a very recent development. The ban on transgender service was only lifted in the year 2000 by the European Court of Human Rights - after years of persecution. This has been bolstered by the Equality Act 2010, which makes it unlawful to discriminate on a number of grounds - age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sex and sexual orientation. Those that have completed transition are now treated as an individual of their acquired gender.

All of this suggests the British Army is making positive strides. Indeed, over the summer in the weeks leading up to London Pride, the rainbow flag appeared above Army buildings up and down the country, showing symbolic support for LGBTI military personnel.

At the Army LGBT conference at the end of July, the Diversity and Inclusion policy team and the Deputy Chaplain General addressed the progress towards same sex marriage in military chapels in the next year.

But the very existence of the LGBTI forum and its necessary role in supporting individuals underlines there is a journey still to travel - the commitment to driving forward an inclusive forces community was said to be still "not good enough".

More must be done to ensure that our military is diverse and doesn't discriminate against any individual wishing to serve and protect our country. This is tied to the Armed Forces Covenant - this promise, signed by the government, expressly states that British soldiers and those who have served should be treated 'fairly' and respected as 'individuals'.

It follows that any discriminatory behaviour must be stamped out if we want our forces to display the same values of the society they protect.