US President Joe Biden has mandated trans women to register for the military draft, backtracking his push towards trans equality.

The Biden administration is demanding that all trans women, who fall within the draft-age of 18-25 must register with the Selective Service System (SSS) to be drafted for the military. This goes against Biden’s proclaimed push towards trans equality in the country. The US President had previously stated that he is committed to ‘advancing transgender equality in the classroom, on the playing field, in our military and our housing and health care systems’.

Last year, he even reversed Donald Trump’s ban which prohibited trans people from serving in the military. Biden stated that someone’s gender identity should not be the reason why they could not join the military service. Allowing all Americans to serve their country is also better for the military and America is ‘safer when everyone qualified to serve can do so openly and with pride’. Trans people have since been able to join the military.

Rules for the Military Draft

Trans women will now have to sign-up for the military service because they were assigned male at birth. However, cis women are not asked to register. The Selective Service System requires all ‘U.S. citizens or immigrants who are born male and have changed their gender to female’ to still enrol for the draft. In a social media post, the Selective Service stated that ‘if your son is an only son and the last male in your family to carry the family name, he is still required to register with SSS’.

The Twitter post demonstrates that there is a focus on men and sons specifically joining the military, not women and daughters. Requiring trans women to enrol dismisses their womanhood. This is especially noticeable given that last year, the House and Senate Armed Services Committee had agreed not to include a requirement for women to register for the draft in the National Defense Authorization Act.

History of the Military

The military is a male dominated space and has a history of anti-LGBTQ+ laws. In 1993, the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy was introduced. The policy allowed queer people to serve in the military under the condition that they stayed silent and in the closet about their queer identity. Former US President Barack Obama signed the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in 2011.

The Selective Service website states that although trans students still have to register, they have the opportunity to call a number to discuss the ‘registration requirements’, which could lead to exemptions. The rules also declare that trans men are not mandated to register for the military draft. The Selective Service explains that all individuals ‘who are born female and have changed their gender to male’ do not have to sign-up.

This specific point completely denies trans men of being men. While many might not want to be drafted for the military, the simple fact that they are not required to reiterates the idea that trans men are not men. Essentially, with these rules, the Biden administration is stating that because trans men were assigned female at birth, they are not needed in the military the same way cis men are – a revealing notion given Biden’s supposed support for the trans community.

The Selective Service System

The current Selective Service System rules only seem to follow a false notion of biological essentialism where a person’s biological sex assigned at birth trumps their gender identity, being seen as more important. While the rules had existed for a while, they gained attention this month with the Selective Service’s reminder to register for the draft.

The SSS had previously received backlash in 2020. The National Center for Transgender Equality demanded that the congress should either remove the Selective Service System or make it completely gender neutral. According to them, the current system only created ‘needless hardships for many’, including trans and intersex people.

The requirements focus specifically on men and women, not acknowledging the existence of non-binary, intersex or otherwise gender diverse trans people. Following the Selective Service’s logic, it is fair to assume that anyone who was assigned male at birth, no matter whether they identify as a woman or as non-binary, they are still required to register for the military draft.

Trans People in the Military

A recent study found trans people to be twice as likely to serve in the military. Around 20% of trans people have served in the US military, twice the percentage of the general US population. Given the high number of trans people in the armed forces, it is all the more important to end the US military’s discrimination based on gender identity.

The study’s key findings also highlight the disproportionate disadvantages trans people who have served in the military face. Trans veterans face discrimination in employment, housing, healthcare and other sectors. They were more likely to experience homelessness (21%), more likely to be fired due to anti-trans biases (36%), and less likely to be hired for a job (53%) compared to non-veterans. Moreover, over half of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey respondents stated that they had been harassed.

A 2019 study published in the American Psychological Association Journal revealed that almost all their trans participants experienced at least one incident of discrimination because to their gender identity. This was often due to uniform rules, bathrooms, and changing one’s name and gender market within the Military Health System. These experiences were associated with worse well-being, negatively impacting their mental health.

Trans people who wish to serve in the military should be treated with respect. Forcing trans women to register for the draft because they were assigned male at birth and not requiring trans men to do the same, only reiterates a transphobic notion that trans women are more needed than trans men. President Biden should keep his promise and ensure that the military and the Selective Service System strive towards equality for all trans people. This includes trans men being treated as men and trans women being treated as women.