Transgender military service members testified on Wednesday (27 February) before the House Armed Services Committee. This is the first time trans members of the military have ever formally testified in Congress.
They were called before the committee to testify about Donald Trump’s ban of transgender individuals serving in the military.
In January, the Supreme Court, voting along party lines, stayed an injunction allowing the ban to continue.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), chairwoman of the committee, called the hearing.
Five military members testified: Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann (Navy), Captain Alivia Stehlik (Army), Captain Jennifer Peace (Army), Staff Sergeant Patricia King (Army), and Corpsman Akira Wyatt (Navy).
Combat veteran and Doctor Jesse M. Ehrenfeld also testified.
In her opening remarks, Speier stated: ‘Transgender service members are exceptional but also exceptionally normal.’
‘I believe the the transgender military ban is unconstitutional, discriminatory, and self-defeating,’ she continued. ‘When the service chiefs were asked, they made it clear unit readiness and cohesion were not affected by transgender military service.’
Performing their duty, first and foremost
The service members present before the committee were their to testify about their performance and how the ban affects them.
‘It doesn’t matter if you’re female or LGBTQ. What matters is that each member is focused on the mission,’ Dremann said. ‘It just so happens that some of the best and brightest we have to offer just happen to be transgender.’
Stehlik added that trans members being able to serve openly increases the ‘readiness and lethality of the military’.
They all doubled down on the idea that their gender identity or sexuality never affected their ability to serve.
King said it was her hard work that inspired her soldiers.
‘The question that resounds in their mind: can you do the job and accomplish the mission… can you look out for your troops’ best interests?’
Peace continued the testimony, saying she would be the first to ‘kick out a transgender service member if they are unable to meet the standards’.
We appreciate your service
An oft-cited reason to question trans people’s service in the military is their various medical needs.
Ehrenfeld knocked this in his testimony, saying: ‘There is no medically valid reason, including gender dysphoria, to exclude transgender service members from military service.’
A top medical group, the American Medical Association, also previously asserted this belief.
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM), one of the first Native American women elected to Congress last year, became emotional while addressing the military members gathered to testify.
“Regardless of what the president says, 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐀𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐧𝐬 𝐰𝐡𝐨 𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐭𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐜𝐞.” – a tearful @RepDebHaaland at a congressional hearing on the #TransMilitaryBan. pic.twitter.com/afO363Jbuv
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) February 28, 2019
She told them that ‘regardless of what the president says, there are millions of Americans who appreciate your service’.