This week, Trump announced that transgender citizens would be banned from serving the military. The announcement got, as Trump would put it, “huuuge” reaction. The debate over whether transgender people would be good or bad for the military sparked conversations all over social media platforms. Lady Gaga, who is a major LGBTQ advocate, even got involved with a tweet that quickly became a part of that controversy:
“@POTUS Sincerely, did you know of the group you singled out today, 45% of them ages (18 to 24) have attempted suicide already?” -Lady Gaga via Twitter
Some are arguing that this tweet in itself shows the problem with transgender people in the military, clearly not Lady Gaga’s intention at all. No one who is suicidal is allowed to serve. Mental problems can disqualify you from serving. If nearly half have attempted suicide from civilian stressors, what would happen in the depths of combat, under “real” stress that happens in military situations.
“So…they already can’t deal with daily life but will do fine in nice relaxing COMBAT. Put down the pipe.” –@siftyboones
“Suicide attempts are a disqualification to enter the military for anybody. Trans or not. You’re not very bright are you?” –@neeceetx
“Gosh, one might conclude they’re unstable or something. Let’s give them the keys to our ICBMs. What could go wrong?” –@OhioCoastie
To call all transgender individuals “unstable” or “suicidal” is inaccurate and even stigmatizing. Yes, being transgender is another suicide risk factor, but that doesn’t mean that they are all suicidal or incapable of fulfilling military duties. This is a gross oversimplification of suicidality. These type of comments make it seem like transgender communities are too weak even for daily life, so military should be out of the question. There are numerous factors which go into being suicidal, from mental illnesses (i.e. depressive disorders) to traumatic events to hostile environments to sexual orientations (especially stigmatized ones).
If you are going to attack transgender military members for an increased suicide risk, why not address the suicidal risk of being in the military overall? Combat increases the risk of many mental illnesses, from PTSD to anxiety disorders to mood disorders. All of these put individuals at an elevated risk for self harm and even suicide attempts or suicide completion. I would love for more attention to be placed on suicide in the military and how to treat their mental illnesses and suicidality, rather than overlook it and pretend its not a problem. If suicidal people can’t function in the military, it should be acknowledged that many veterans are suicidal due to the military experience itself. Transgender or not, suicide needs to be addressed, but in appropriate ways, without stigmatizing and ignorant language.