Coronavirus crisis ‘the time when our country needs us the most’, says trans man suing Trump for right to serve in military

Protesters of the trans military ban

It’s been a year and a day since Donald Trump banned trans people from serving in the US military, and amid calls for the ban to be lifted, one trans man has spoken out about why the coronavirus crisis means he should be allowed to serve.

The trans troops ban, which came into force on April 12, 2019, following a series of tweets from Trump, bars openly trans people from joining the military and requires trans people in the military who come out to be discharged.

The only way around this is for trans people to use the name, gender and pronouns they were assigned at birth.

Ryan Karnoski is a trans man who wants to join the military, who is one of the people currently suing the Trump administration for his right to serve in the US military.

“It is frustrating that a year has gone by since this new iteration of the transgender ban on military service, especially right now as we’re in this public health emergency,” Karnoski told NBC News.

“(The pandemic) is an important reminder to me to be doing everything that I can to be the best future behavioural health services officer than I can be, regardless of whether or not I’m trans,” he added.

Karnoski, 25, is a social worker who lives in San Francisco with his wife.

His goal is to become a behavioural health service officer – someone who works in the military and provides mental-health services.

As the US military mobilises in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Karnoski said he remains ready to enlist.

“I don’t think it’s about me as an individual at all, I’m a piece of this larger battle,” he said, adding that being trans helps him to empathise with other minority groups – something that will stand him in good stead when he can finally sign up.

“I really see being trans as something that augments all of those other things to help me serve patients in the best way that I could,” Karnoski said.

“I’m not joining the military so that I can get (transgender) surgeries or for medical care or even so that my education would be paid for,” Karnoski says.

“I want (people) to think of what it means that prospective medical service corps officers have been turned away,” he added, “and are being excluded from military service because of this ban, at a time when the country needs them most.”
Kara Ingelhart, a Lambda Legal lawyer representing Karnoski in his case against Trump, added: “I think it’s clear that nobody’s asking for any special treatment here. Just equal access.”