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Trump, Suicide and the Military: Why Being Transgender Is Not the Problem

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Editor’s note: This story reflects an individual’s experience and is not an endorsement from The Mighty. We believe in sharing a variety of perspectives from our community.

Three weeks ago, Donald Trump announced that transgender citizens would be banned from serving in the military. The announcement got, as Trump would put it, a “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 conversation:

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 illness can disqualify you from serving. If nearly half of transgender people aged 18 to 24 have attempted suicide from civilian stressors, what would happen in the depths of combat, under the “real” stress of military situations?

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 they are all suicidal or incapable of fulfilling military duties. This is a gross oversimplification of suicidality. These types 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 (for example, depressive disorders) to traumatic events, from hostile environments to stigmatized sexual orientations. If you are going to attack transgender military members for an increased suicide risk, why not address the suicide risk of being in the military overall? Combat increases the risk of many mental illnesses, from post-traumatic stress disorder (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 it’s 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.

 If you need support right now, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1. Or send a text message to 838255.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “HOME” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.

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Thinkstock photo via nito100

Originally published: August 20, 2017
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