Trump Bans Transgender Persons From Military Service [UPDATED]

Trump attacked LGBTQ rights by rescinding the Obama transgender Title IX guidelines

Over the course of three tweets this morning, Donald Trump effectively banned all transgender men and women from serving in the military. This announcement flies in the face of previous statements proclaiming himself to be a “real friend” to the LGBTQ community.

In the tweets, he said:

The full statement reads:

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you

“Any capacity” would seem to include non-combat roles essentially selecting a class of people to wholly exclude from being eligible to serve their country (similar to the way sexual orientation was previously singled out as being a disqualifier).

Prior to Trump’s announcement this morning, the transgender community had been allowed to openly serve in the armed forces over the last year without issue thanks to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

With the wording of his announcement, the fate of currently serving transgender persons is unknown but seems to be in danger as the administration claims it “will not accept or allow” any transgender person to serve.

The announcement follows Defense Secretary James Mattis’ move last month to stall Obama’s initiative to allow openly transgender men and women to enlist. That initiative – begun under Carter’s watch last year – set aside a year for the Pentagon to determine how best to help transgender men and women begin integrating into the armed services. The day before that deadline, Mattis announced he was delaying implementation. He stated at the time:

“Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force? Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military Services.”

The report from that year of research – commissioned by the Defense Department and assembled by Rand Corp. – concluded transgender men and women would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs.

At issue, Rand Corp. examined not only the number of transgender soldiers that could be expected but the medical aspects of their service given that some transgender persons choose to undergo reassignment surgery as a part of their transition.

Trump’s ban on transgender military service comes amid conservative talking points about transgender people enlisting to receive free reassignment surgery – a question already answered that those engaging in the talking points refuse to acknowledge.

The New York Times noted:

The president’s announcement came amid debate on Capitol Hill over the Obama-era practice of requiring the Pentagon to pay for medical treatment related to gender transition. The dispute has unfolded as Congress considers a nearly $700 billion spending bill to fund the Pentagon. Representative Vicky Hartzler, Republican of Missouri, has proposed an amendment that would bar the Pentagon from spending money on transition surgery or related hormone therapy.

The same measure narrowly failed this month in the House, with some Republicans joining Democrats to reject it. But some conservative Republicans have said they would not support the military spending measure without the language banning money for gender transition.

According to the Defense Department report, only a handful of the 1.3 million currently active service members are transgender. And of those, not all will choose to undergo reassignment surgery. The Rand Corp. report stated:

The study estimates the number of transgender individuals currently serving in the active component of the U.S. military at between 1,320 and 6,630 out of a total of about 1.3 million service members. However, not all of these transgender service members would be expected to seek medical treatment related to their gender status or become nondeployable.

“Only a small portion of service members would likely seek gender transition-related medical treatments that would affect their deployability or health care costs,” said Agnes Gereben Schaefer, lead author of the study and a senior political scientist at RAND.

The study estimates that between 30 and 140 new hormone treatments could be initiated a year and 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries could be utilized a year among active component service members. Additional health care costs could range between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, representing an approximate 0.13-percent increase.

[Emphasis Mine]

They added:

Eighteen countries allow transgender personnel to serve openly in their militaries. RAND researchers focused on the policies of four with the most well developed and publicly available policies on transgender military personnel: Australia, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom.

In these militaries, a service member’s gender is considered to have shifted in terms of housing, uniforms, identification cards, showers and restrooms when a service member publicly discloses an intention to live as the target gender and receives a diagnosis of gender incongruence. However, physical fitness standards typically do not fully shift until the gender transition is medically complete. In no case did the RAND team find evidence of an effect on operational effectiveness, operational readiness or cohesion.

“The foreign militaries we studied have reported harassment and bullying incidents, but these effects have been mitigated by having clear policies and comprehensive training across their militaries,” Schaefer said.

Clearly the incorporation of transgender service members is working in other countries. Additionally, our own studies say the expenditures to integrate transgender soldiers would be minimal while allowing people to serve their country regardless of gender identity.

For the moment, that will not be the case under the Trump administration.

This is the second major setback for the transgender community after Trump reversed the Obama administration’s interpretation of Title IX guidelines to be inclusive of transgender students.

UPDATE [July 26, 2017 @ 5pm ET]

Politico has more on why Trump issued the ban seemingly out of the blue today:

House Republicans were planning to pass a spending bill stacked with his campaign promises, including money to build his border wall with Mexico.

But an internal House Republican fight over transgender troops was threatening to blow up the bill. And House GOP insiders feared they might not have the votes to pass the legislation because defense hawks wanted a ban on Pentagon-funded sex reassignment operations — something GOP leaders wouldn’t give them.

They turned to Trump, who didn’t hesitate. In the flash of a tweet, he announced that transgender troops would be banned altogether.

That’s right – Trump banned all transgender people from military service to build his wall.

Politico added:

The president’s directive, of course, took the House issue a step beyond paying for gender reassignment surgery and other medical treatment. House Republicans were never debating expelling all transgender troops from the military.

“This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire,” said one senior House Republican aide. The source said that while GOP leaders asked the White House for help on the taxpayer matter specifically, they weren’t expecting — and got no heads up on — Trump’s far-reaching directive.

He didn’t for a second take the lives, the commitments, or the rights of transgender service members into account before firing off an unnecessary set of tweets barring an entire class of people from serving their country.




Tim Peacock is the Managing Editor and founder of Peacock Panache and has worked as a civil rights advocate for over twenty years. During that time he’s worn several hats including leading on campus LGBT advocacy in the University of Missouri campus system, interning with the Colorado Civil Rights Division, and volunteering at advocacy organizations. You can learn more about him at his personal website.


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