Biden Administration attempts to reverse transgender military ban, only 18 days until progress report

Lauren Abel

When Map Pesqueira lost his military scholarship in April 2019 due to former President Donald Trump’s executive order banning transgender people from serving in the military, he thought he would be unable to serve in the future.


An executive order, signed by President Joe Biden in January, reversed the policy implemented by Trump in 2018. Biden’s executive order requires the Department of Defense and Homeland Security to reexamine the records of transgender individuals who were denied enlistment and offer them an opportunity to reenlist.


“Gender identity should not be a bar to military service,” Biden said in his executive order. “Moreover, there is substantial evidence that allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military does not have any meaningful negative impact on the Armed Forces.”


Pesqueira, a radio-television-film junior, said he was the only transgender person to receive a national ROTC scholarship from the army to use in college. This scholarship was rescinded following the enactment of Trump’s policy.


“I was relying on that scholarship to fund the remaining three years (of college), and when it got taken away, I fell into a spiral of financial panic,” Pesqueira said. “I had to consider moving back to San Antonio, which is my hometown, and enrolling in community college there because there was just no way I was going to be able to pay out of pocket.”


Pesqueira said his hopes of serving in the military never faltered, and Biden’s executive order gave him a lot more hope.


“The day Biden announced that he was going to reverse it, I went straight to the ROTC wing … and I wanted to speak with my ROTC advisor about coming back,” Pesqueira said. “It’s something that I knew I wasn’t going to give up on, I just had to put it on the back burner until the policy was reversed.”


By the end of March, the Department of Defense will share its progress on offering previously denied transgender people an opportunity to enlist in response to Biden’s order.


Ricardo Martinez, chief executive officer for Equality Texas, an organization that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, said Trump enacted his policy because of claims that gender dysphoria causes significant distress or impairment, though those claims were condemned and disproven by the American Psychological Association.


Gender dysphoria is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental disorders as psychological distress due to a conflict with expressed gender and gender assigned at birth. The effects of gender dysphoria and treatment were said by Trump to pose a tremendous financial burden to the military, Martinez said. These claims were also disproven through a study by the RAND Corporation.


“(The executive order ensures) no one will be separated or discharged or denied reenlistment solely on the basis of their gender identity,” Martinez said. “It also ensures that all medically necessary transition-related care authorized by law is available to all service members.”


Pesqueira said the executive order has not officially reversed the Trump policy, but is still in the process of removing it.


“I’ve known that I’ve wanted to go in the military longer than I’ve even known about my gender identity,” Pesqueira said. “I think that speaks volumes in terms of my passion and my commitment. … Transgender people are not a burden on military readiness.”