Faust Opposes Military Transgender Ban in Letter to Mattis

University President Drew G. Faust wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis last week urging him to allow transgender individuals to serve in the military.

This summer, President Donald Trump moved to ban transgender people from serving in the armed forces, reversing an Obama-era policy. In her letter, Faust denounced the decision as discriminatory and damaging to national security.

“I believe the directive to ban transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces to be deeply offensive, misguided, and harmful, both to those being excluded arbitrarily and to our country,” Faust wrote.

In June 2016, the Obama Administration implemented a revised military policy that allowed transgender individuals to serve in the military, with a scheduled rollout date of January 1, 2018. Trump’s proposed ban would halt progress on the Obama-era plan on the basis that it “failed to identify a sufficient basis to conclude that terminating the Department's longstanding policy and practice would not hinder military effectiveness and lethality, disrupt unit cohesion, or tax military resources.”

Reinstament
Navy Secretary Ray E. Mabus (seated, left) and Harvard University President Drew G. Faust (seated, right) signed an agreement in March 2011 to re-establish Naval ROTC at Harvard after nearly 40 years of absence due to Harvard's non-discrimination policy.

Trump wrote in his memo that he would consider lifting the ban if the Secretary of Defense, after consulting the Secretary of Homeland Security, offered a “convincing” recommendation for it.

Faust also penned a letter to several U.S. Senators who oppose the ban. In the wake of Trump’s announcement, Senators John S. McCain, Jack F. Reed, Kirsten E. Gillibrand, and Susan M. Collins introduced a bill that would prevent the military from discharging transgender troops on the basis of gender identity.

Faust wrote to the four that she offered her “strong support” for the bill. She also said that she hoped other members of Congress would follow suit.

“I hope your efforts and advocacy inspire your colleagues to join you in this important fight.“ Faust wrote. “The passage of your legislation will ensure that all qualified Americans in uniform, regardless of gender identity, can continue the honorable pursuit of serving and protecting their country.”

In both letters, Faust stated that she was driven to write by her experience as the University’s president, where she had met many students who had served or planned to serve in the military. According to Faust, these students displayed “exceptional strength of character and personal courage” and sought “to create a stronger society.”

“These opportunities should be open to all,” Faust wrote.

Students at the Law School have also objected to the ban. When the U.S. Army and Air Force visited the campus to interview students, student groups HLS Lambda and Queer/Trans People of Color organized a sit-in in protest of Trump’s policies.

Since Trump won the election last year, Faust has become increasingly involved in national political issues, speaking out against Trump’s immigration policies, among other topics.

—Staff writer Angela N. Fu can be reached at angela.fu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @angelanfu.

—Staff writer Dianne Lee can be reached at dianne.lee@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @diannelee_.

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