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Tuesday, Nov. 28
The Indiana Daily Student

opinion letters

LETTER: Column on transgender ban by IDS opinion editor worse than actual ban

Friday’s column with the headline “Trump’s transgender military ban is justified,” written by Indiana Daily Student columnist Emily Shaffer and former opinion editor Ethan Smith, is textbook transphobia.

By misusing the term “gender dysphoria” and labeling all transgender people as mentally disordered, the writers’ view is even more reprehensible than the Pentagon’s already discriminatory ban. I am deeply disappointed that the IDS published the opinion despite the patently discriminatory views, lack of research and potential damage to the IU transgender community.

The original writing read, “Transgender people are unable to meet the mental health standards of the military, making them unfit for service. . . They suffer from gender dysphoria.” These blanket statements meet the very definitions of bias and transphobia. 

The writers imply that all transgender people are mentally ill, revealing steep ignorance. Gender nonconformity and transgender identity are not mental disorders, and not all transgender people have “gender dysphoria” as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Any assertion otherwise is stigmatizing and discriminatory. Moreover, the DSM diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” is usually required for American insurance companies to pay for any transition assistance, including hormones and surgery, and so it’s often utilized for very healthy transgender people.

Besides, the column writers didn’t do their research: Although all service members are required to use their biological sex, not even the Pentagon is banning trans-identifying people without the DSM diagnosis of “gender dysphoria.” By supporting a total ban, the writers pile on additional misinformed bigotry to an already transphobic policy. Instead of banning people who feel forced to live in the wrong body, the U.S. government could cover the costs of transition, as it did until 2017.

This column is insulting to gender-nonconforming and transgender students. Its publication makes IU a less welcoming place. At the very least, the writers should have done proper research of the case.

Ethan Smith, one of the writers, was serving as opinion editor when the column was published, overseeing opinion publications and serving on the Editorial Board. He has proudly identified as gay, but he denounces LGBT legal protections in the same articles in which he claims to speak “as a member of the LGBT community.” Unfortunately, it’s not the first time his hasty generalizations have caused widespread moral outrage

Smith no longer holds the position of opinion editor at the IDS. The column has been updated to say “too often unable” and “proposed standards” rather than the original’s more objectionable forms. I commend the editors who updated it. I hope for more careful editing of columns, including by opinion editors, in the future.

Tom Sweeney

IU junior in mathematics and economics 

Bloomington, Indiana

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