In an early morning tweet Wednesday, President Donald Trump, in his role as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, announced he will not “accept or allow transgender individuals” to serve because the military must focus on “decisive and overwhelming victory” and can’t be “burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender people.
The explosive tweet sent a tsunami across the nation, as thousands of transgender people already in uniform were left wondering what their future would be when such a policy goes into effect.
President Barack Obama lifted the ban on transgender in the military in 2016 and it has been under review since then. Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said it “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion” and brings health costs.
Similar arguments were used against integration of blacks, women and gays in the military over the last 70 years.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sent a mixed message, saying the standard of such decisions is how forces will be ready and lethal in defense of the nation — and that’s the standard for guidance “on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military.”
The policy would present a massive readjustment. Military transgender population estimates vary, going to a high of 15,000. Many more are veterans and reservists.
Gender issues are not a new thing. Historians estimate 400 women posed as men to fight on both sides of the Civil War.
As for health costs, the Rand Corporation says transgenders add $2.4 to $8.4 million a year to the military health care budget, a minor budget item for the military. The Rand study also said transgender servicemen and women have a “minimal impact” on readiness.
Trump’s decision is a major whack for LGBTQ rights groups, which in recent years have won same-sex marriage rights from a Supreme Court decision and got the green light for gays openly serving in the military.
The ACLU bashed the move as “outrageous and desperate,” a political step seeking to “score cheap points on the backs of military personnel who put their lives on the line for their country.”
We asked Ashlanders what they thought of the move.
Mary (declined photo) — The whole thing is really weird. He relies on a tweet to do this? There’s supposed to be a review of the whole process. It’s not appropriate. There’s no explanation of the medical costs. It’s non-presidential. The extremist redneck 5 percent always have a hard time with it. It asks too much of them.
Lorenzo Cannistraci — It’s discriminatory. People want to serve and defend our country. He says the cost is too much. Well, it costs too much to repair people who were blown up in service. The military is having a hard time finding people to serve. The pool is slimming down. So, they are not good enough to get shot at?
Eden Bova — It’s absolutely horrible. It’s discriminatory to separate them. They are human beings just like us. If they are choosing to serve and take risks, they should be welcomed to do that, and not be telling someone "no."
Chanelle Janssens — I’m afraid we’re moving backward with something like that, instead of forward. Honestly, I feel I’m pretty numb to everything that’s happening. Nothing shocks me anymore. I’m surprised and wish I had something more positive to say.
Sarah Muhlberg — I guess I’m outraged and sad. It looked like we were getting somewhere for rightful participation of trans in every aspect of life. It seems pretty callous to send a tweet changing the course of it. There is a lot of violence against trans. We can all get behind vets and even anti-war people recognizing trans rights. Even people who struggle with trans can honor and thank them for their service. It’s spitting in the face of any service person to do this. How is it acceptable to behave like this?
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.