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St. Louisans Decry Supreme Court Decision To Uphold Trump's Ban On Transgender Troops

Kathryn Bacon, seen in this July 2017 photo, is a transgender veteran who served in the U.S. Army between 1973 and1980.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Many St. Louisans are dismayed by a U.S. Supreme Court decision to reinstate President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military.

The decision by the justices on Tuesday allows the Pentagon to stop people who’ve transitioned from enlisting in the U.S. armed forces. It also permits the military to require those already serving to present as the gender on their birth certificate.

For Kathryn Bacon, a local transgender Army veteran, the news felt like a cruel blow. “I just couldn’t believe it,” Bacon said.

Bacon considers the decision an assault on the humanity of transgender people — and on her seven years of service.

“It’s like I wasted my patriotism on — what?” she said. “It makes you feel like … you’re useless.”

Safety threat?

As an Army paralegal, Bacon prepared discharge paperwork for outgoing soldiers, including many who were dishonorably discharged under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Bacon fears the new decision will cost the military by excluding more people with essential skills, threatening the nation’s safety.

Steph Perkins, who heads Missouri’s LGBTQ advocacy group PROMO, shares Bacon's concern.

PROMO executive director Steph Perkins believes anyone who meets military standards should be able to serve.
Credit PROMO
PROMO executive director Steph Perkins believes anyone who meets military standards should be able to serve.

“It means losing highly trained, quality service people,” Perkins said. “It means losing qualified recruits, especially at a time when enlistment is at one of its all-time lows.”

Tuesday’s decision and others that limit the ability of transgender people to serve have a ripple effect beyond military service, he said.

“They do send this negative message that it’s OK to treat transgender people in a different way than we would other people,” Perkins said. “And, in fact, less than human, sometimes.”

That message is a dangerous one, especially for transgender women of color, Perkins said. At least 26 transgender people died violently last year, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“I worry about the safety of trans people when rulings like this come out,” Perkins said.

The justices could take up the issue again after it makes its way through the lower courts.

“I always have a hopeful outlook,” Perkins said. “I believe that we are still moving in a direction toward equality.”

Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.