President Trump tweeted that he is denying transgender Americans the opportunity to serve in the military because of who they are. This is simply absurd. Transgender Americans are citizens of this country and have the right to pursue any career path they want. Setting aside that fact is damaging to our nation. Using the excuse that cost of care is the reason for this discrimination is worse than damaging. It’s mean-spirited and bigoted.
Absolutely no one benefits from marginalizing people who want to protect our country. Transgender people are just that: people. Some are bakers; some are teachers; some are soldiers. I am a doctor.
The tragedy of this policy is the direct impact it will have on young people who already face the challenges of stigma in their everyday lives. This is our president saying to young people struggling to find themselves that they are not accepted, respected, or needed. Transgender Americans are vulnerable to discrimination, harassment, and violence. Repealing protections agreed to by our military and society will have tragic consequences. Denying those who wish to serve the opportunity to better themselves, their families, and their communities will negatively affect all of us.
The Department of Defense and U.S. military leadership have already invested in changes to include transgender Americans to openly serve our country. It is a travesty at this late date for the president to suddenly reverse course and further stigmatize an already-vulnerable population.
For those who feel left behind or confused right now, know that you do not fight alone. We will not stop our battle against inequality until everyone has the same opportunities to work and live without fear. Regardless of your race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression, Gov. Wolf believes you have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity. That is why I am proud to serve in his administration.
In contrast to President Trump’s actions, Wolf signed two executive orders that extend workplace protections for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians who work for the commonwealth or a contractor hired by the commonwealth. The Wolf administration also expanded Medicaid coverage to cover medically necessary gender confirmation treatment and issued guidance to commercial issuers to ensure they can no longer discriminate based on gender identity or expression.
In Pennsylvania, we applaud those who bravely defend our nation, without exception. Our military deserves the most qualified personnel possible, and discrimination based on gender identity makes that impossible.
As a Transgender Pennsylvanian, and an American, I am proud to serve my community, my state, and my nation as the acting Pennsylvania secretary of health and physician general.
Dr. Rachel Levine is the acting secretary of health and physician general, Pennsylvania Department of Health.