Transgender service member feels ‘helplessness’ in wake of Trump decree

On Thursday, lawyers for Regan Kibby, a 19-year-old midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, asked a federal court for a preliminary injunction to block President Donald Trump’s intention to ban transgender service members from serving in the military.

“My main motivation for becoming part of this lawsuit was a sense of helplessness,” Kibby said in an interview. “Being in the military is something I’ve wanted for such a long time, and I’ve really worked hard for — I can see my future crumbling ahead of me because of the uncertainty that has resulted from the President’s actions.”

Midshipman Regan Kibby with his younger sister and mother during Plebe Parents’ Weekend.

Lawyers for Kibby initially filed suit after the President tweeted in late July: “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruptions that transgenders in the military would entail.”

But after the President issued a memorandum to the Pentagon last week, the lawyers — from the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders — amended the lawsuit on Thursday at the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Kibby is the named plaintiff in the case and former military officials under the Obama administration have filed declarations in support of the motion for preliminary injunction. They include Secretary of the Army Eric K. Fanning, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus Jr.

“President Trump’s stated rationales for reversing the policy and banning military service by transgender people make no sense,” Mabus wrote.

Kibby’s declaration with the US District Court for the District of Columbia details the fact that he has currently completed his first two years of Naval Academy education and is living in a “state of uncertainty” after Trump announced he plans to reverse Obama-era policies concerning transgender service members.

“I am transgender,” Kibby wrote, explaining how he came out to his chain of command, including his company officer, in 2016 after then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter issued an order announcing that transgender people could not be separated from the military on the basis of their gender identity.

In his memo last week, Trump directed the departments of Defense and Homeland Security “to determine how to address transgender individuals currently serving” and to halt the use of resources to fund “sex-reassignment surgical procedures.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis announced soon after the creation of a panel to recommend how the military should put the President’s new guidance into effect. For now, the current policy allowing transgender individuals already in the military to serve will remain in place, Mattis said.

“While President Trump and the Department of Defense have said that current transgender service members can continue to serve at least until March 2018, very serious harms are happening now, ” said Shannon Minter of the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

“We are filing for a preliminary injunction because, as a result of President’s announced new ban, transgender service members are suffering harms right now, including being denied the ability to reenlist, to be promoted or commissioned, to obtain requested deployments, and to receive medically necessary care,” he said

Kibby says he feels in legal limbo. Back in the fall of 2016, he met with the Brigade Medical Officer in order to begin the process of getting a diagnoses and a medical treatment plan. As a part of the plan he said he met “multiple times” with mental health care providers, an endocrinologist and a plastic surgeon. At the time, Kibby was told that he would need to have “18 months of stability” in his gender identity before he could be commissioned. Because of that, he took a medical leave of absence and is now serving as an intern at a law firm.

“During my year of medical leave, in addition to receiving hormone therapy,” Kibby wrote. “I intend to do everything I can to ensure that my return to the Naval Academy is successful and that I will be a valuable service member.”

But now he’s concerned and says he is living in a state of uncertainty “because I have not been able to obtain an assurances from my chain of command about my return to the academy or my future military service.”

He said that his superiors “have been silent because they have not known how the previously announced policies will change.”

He was the first midshipman to receive clearance to transition while enrolled in the academy.

Two other similar lawsuits have been filed in other courts by the ACLU and Lambda Legal.

Thursday’s filing also includes a declaration from Margaret Chamberlain Wilmoth who served as Deputy Surgeon General for Mobilization, Readiness and Army Reserve Affairs in the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States Army from July 2014 until May 2017. Wilmoth served as a member of the Working Group convened by then-Defense Secretary Carter.

“The working group concluded that there were no barriers that should prevent transgender service members from serving openly in the military,” she wrote.