From the desk of the president...

How quickly the campaign promises the current White House Administration made just last year to the LGBTQ+ community are forgotten with the ban of transgender men and women who want to serve their country in the military.  Once again our community becomes a political pawn.  First it was the so called “bathroom bills” which state after state tried to implement, with a few successes thus far but without much objection from the Administration.  Now the ban is a blatant attack on the right of every American to serve their country, specifically on the transgender community.  President Trump in his tweet, further marginalized a community already done so by a government not providing protections to the LGBTQ+ community who are American citizens.   In his tweet, he states that transgender people in the military would cause “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Why just last year, the Rand Corporation at the request of the former Secretary of Defense reported an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender people serve on active duty out of 1.3 million armed forces members and another 830 to 4,160 in the reserves.  Nearly two dozen other countries allow transgender people to serve in their armed forces including Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.  The report also states health costs would increase only between $2.4 and 8.4 million annually which is just a fraction of the estimated $32.3 billion budgeted for the armed services health care programs.  It was estimated that only 130 transgender people a year would seek gender reassignment surgery.

I am unsure what President Trump means about “disruption” since I believe that most soldiers and sailors would not question the expertise of a fellow serviceperson, especially one that has your back.  The disruption comes when military loses qualified medical personnel, translators, chaplains, officers and combat ready personnel.  This is what disrupts our ability to be an effective military power.

We would be amiss if we didn’t look at why the LGBTQ+ community continues to be victimized in this day and age?  Is it possible that the community is complacent by not recognizing how important guaranteed protections are vital to every American citizen?  If you have not experienced the fear of or discrimination itself then you might not feel a need to speak out or to take action.  An example is on June 11th; we tried to fill a bus for the National Pride March in Washington, D.C. and could not even muster enough people for half a bus.  Greater Reading was represented by a few who decided to drive to the rally.  The LGBTQ+ community wants to celebrate their diversity and unity with the rest of the community at Pride events all year but where are you when it comes time for the festival, events and programs?  By using Pennsylvania’s estimated percentage of LGBTQ+ people of 3.6% and apply it to Berks County’s overall Population (2015) we are 14,950 potentially strong.  Not even 10% of the LGBTQ+ community attends or supports Pride in celebrating who you are in a safe place.  Now we have The LGBT Center of Greater Reading which has developed partnerships with agencies and organizations, providing support groups, educational and advocacy programs.  Without you we cannot maintain or create the services, programs and events you want and need.

The time for A CALL TO ACTION is now.  You and the LGBTQ+ community can become a political force in Greater Reading by registering and voting so that we do not lose the gains we have made over the past years. Become the advocate by responding to advocacy organizations request to call, send emails or write letters to politicians, organizations and businesses that need to know where you stand in promoting your community’s civil rights, those enjoyed by other American citizens.  You are part of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, step up and be comfortable with who you are.  Many of us shared and  know the difficulty of coming out, keeping secrets, feeling alone and fear of others finding out who you really are.  Just remember, most of us were there and we can tell you it can be one of the most freeing moments of your life.  Need support, there is a whole community out there for you including Pride and the Center.  We do wish to thank those who are active and support our community.  You are the backbone of keeping us LGBTQ STRONG!

On August 16th, the Reading Fightin’ Phils will host the 5th Annual LGBTQ Night at First Energy Stadium, a stadium that seats 9,000.  There are enough of us to fill the stadium plus.  It’s not just about baseball, it’s about community!  Let’s support the Reading Phils and show Greater Reading that we are LGBTQ STRONG!       

Benedict M. Renkus, President
Reading Pride Celebration
PO Box 15242
Reading PA 19612-5242