What year are we in?
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Donald Trump announced that he would be reversing the progressive work of the Obama administration and introducing a ban on transgender people serving in the military. The news comes nearly a month after Defence Secretary James Mattis delayed a policy to recruit and allow transgender people to serve openly in the military.
Donald Trump said, ‘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 tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you’.
There was no indication that this was coming, as the Trump administration has largely been focused on their move to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).
Last year, the Obama administration announced that transgender individuals would be allowed to openly serve in the military. At the time, a year-long deadline was introduced after which the military would begin recruiting openly transgender individuals. Defence Secretary James Mattis however announced that it would be delayed by another six months just a few weeks ago.
In the UK, transgender individuals are allowed to serve openly in the military – we recently spoke with Ayla Holdom, a transgender former military pilot, about her experience coming out in the RAF which she described as ‘one of the best places [she] could have hoped to come out’.
On the British army recruitment page, a statement reads, ‘The Army welcomes transgender personnel and ensures that all who apply to join are considered for service subject to meeting the same mental and physical entry standard as any other candidate. If you have completed transition you will be treated as an individual of your acquired gender. Transgender soldiers serve throughout the Army playing their part in the country’s security.’
Many are criticising Trump for the ban, as last year on the campaign trail at the Republican National Convention he vowed, ‘As your president, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology, believe me.’
His daughter Ivanka Trump, who is heavily involved in the administration, also faced backlash following the announcement as just last month she had come out in support of the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this year, it was announced that the Trump administration would be dismissing federal protections for transgender students. Students who identified as transgender would be expected to use bathrooms of the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than the one they identified as. He was similarly criticised for his actions, though was praised by many conservatives and religious groups for his actions.
It is currently estimated by the third party RAND Corporation that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 active military personnel who identify as transgender. While Trump stated in his tweets that his ban owed to the ‘tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [people] in the military would entail’, their 2016 study revealed that only a fraction of those people would pursue gender-transition medical treatments and the estimated cost would be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million – a 0.13% increase. For comparison, a Military Times analysis revealed that $41.6 million – nearly five times the amount – is spent annually just on Viagra for service members.
It has not been confirmed if active transgender service people would be removed from the military. Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland, a transgender service member, told the Air Force Times, ‘I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military. You are not going to deny me my right to serve my country when I am fully qualified and able and willing to give my life.’
‘We have pilots, we have doctors, we have combat medics, we have security forces members like myself. We are everywhere in the military, and for our president to not have a military member’s back that is willing to die for him blows my mind.’
Former Defence Secretary Ash Carter, who was heavily involved in the Obama administration’s move to welcome transgender individuals into the military, said, ‘To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military.’
According to CNN, Republicans reportedly asked for the costs of transition surgeries and associated costs to be banned – not an outright ban on all transgender individuals. Their source revealed that the announcement was ‘far beyond leaders’ expectations and caught many by surprise’. The announcement has attracted ire on both sides of the aisle, with Democrats expected to fight the Republican administration strongly on this issue.
Republican US Senator John McCain, a former Vietnam war veteran, said in a statement, ‘The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter…The Department of Defence has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today. ‘
‘Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.’