Today: Military Ban On Transgender Soldiers! Tomorrow: Who Will Be Next?

“Joining the Navy was one of the best decisions Alec Kerry said she had ever made. The other was coming out as transgender…Like thousands of other transgender veterans and members of the military, she grappled with a mix of anger, sadness and fear on Wednesday after Trump ‘tweeted’ that the United States military would no longer ‘accept or allow’ transgender people to serve — a surprise move that came a year after the Obama administration permitted transgender troops to serve openly.” D. Philipps, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Retired U.S. Army Col. and transgender advocate Sheri Swokowski said she was very disappointed in the ban. Photo- Jessie OpoienCAP TIMES.jpg

Excerpt: For Transgender Service Members, a Mix of Sadness, Anger and Fear, By Dave Philipps, The New York Times

“Some transgender troops were left to wonder if they would face a quick discharge from the military or if scheduled medical appointments would be canceled. And nearly all expressed dismay at what they saw as a misguided action that could purge the military of untold numbers of highly skilled and dedicated service members, bringing back an era when many troops lived in secrecy and shame. 

Alec Kerry, transgender and military member. NYT

There are an estimated 2,000 to 11,000 active-duty transgender service members, according to a 2016 RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon. Since the Obama administration lifted the ban on transgender people serving, public opinion has been mixed. A poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports in June found that 23 percent of those surveyed believed that having them serve openly was good for the military, 31 percent said it would have no impact and 38 percent said it would hurt…A monument to transgender veterans unveiled in June at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois was almost immediately defaced by vandals.

Umut Dursun, a former Marine who transitioned from female to male after his service.Photo- A. Valentin for The New York Times

‘I thought we were at a place of progress, and it feels like we’re taking 10 steps back,’  said Umut Dursun, 35, a former Marine in Miami who transitioned from female to male after his service. He was sitting in a V.A. waiting room on Wednesday morning when he saw the news. ‘We’re not afraid of bullets flying at us,’ he said. ‘But we are afraid of someone’s experience around gender because we don’t understand it.’

 Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, which represents the newest generation of fighters, came out strongly against the president’s position.‘This is backward, harmful and contrary to American values. It’s also bad for national security,’ said Paul Rieckhoff, the group’s founder. ‘Thousands of transgender troops are serving in our military right now. An unknown number are in combat zones today.”

* Quote from Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

*From Article: ‘First They Came For…’ By Charles M. Blow, OP-ED COLUMNIST, The New York Times, JULY 27, 2017

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer

Directions:  Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them  examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.

Pre-reading chart by J. Swann


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

In the U.S. there are many transgender members of the military.

Members feel that the military taught them about integrity.

Many fear a quick discharge from the military.

Transgender troops expressed dismay at the sad news.

Conservatives are trying to purge the military.

Traditional veterans groups are keeping silent.

This ban is contrary to American values.

Some young troops  developed an inseparably bond.

Sergeant Bruce is scheduled to be evaluated for hormone therapy.

A number of transgender soldiers are in combat zones today.

Reading Comprehension


Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Some ___say transgender troops ___too many ___procedures that would ___the military’s fighting capability, and they hailed Wednesday’s announcement. With the___ we are facing across the globe, we are asking the ___people to___ their hard-earned money in national defense.

WORD LIST: medical, invest, conservatives, undermine, American, require, challenges,


Grammar Focus

Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

With the changes/challenges we are facing/fighting across the globe, we are asking/ask the American people to investment/invest their hard-earned money in national defense… Each dollar needs to be spent/spend to address threats facing our national/nation.

Discussion for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups.  Have each group list 3  questions they would like to ask any person mentioned in the article. Groups share questions as a class for discussion or for writing topics.

Group Debate

Directions: Divide students into  two teams for this debate. Both teams can use the article  as their source of information or sources from the Web.

Team A will list five reasons for the military ban of transgender service members.

Team B will list  five reasons against the military ban of  transgender service members.

Each team will have time to state their points of view,  and the teacher decides which team made their points.  

For organization, have students use this great Pros and Cons Scale organizer  from Freeology


1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.


Category: Military, Social Issues