US President Donald Trump said today transgenders will not serve in the US military “in any capacity”, asserting that their service would bring “tremendous medical costs and disruption”.
Announcing the decision on Twitter, Trump said the military would not “allow or accept” transgender service members, reversing a major last year’s decision of his predecessor Barack Obama.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the US Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military,” he said in a series of tweets.
“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,” Trump wrote.
Last year, former president Barack Obama had decided to allow transgenders to serve in the US military.
Announcing the decision on June 30, then defence secretary Ashton Carter had argued that the Defence Department and the military needed to avail themselves of all talent possible in order to remain the finest fighting force the world has ever known.
Last July, the Pentagon lifted a long-standing ban against transgender men and women serving openly in the military, removing one of its last discriminatory hurdles and placing gender identity on par discrimination based on race, religion, colour, sex and sexual orientation.
The policy part of the Obama administration’s “Force of the Future” initiative which aimed to make the straight-laced, male-dominated US military more inclusive.
In 2015, the administration opened all combat positions to women and in 2016 appointed the first openly gay Secretary of the Army, Eric K Fanning, local media reported.
The Obama plan allowed transgender service members currently on duty to immediately serve openly.
Armed services had to come up with medical and training plans and until July 1, 2017, for full implementation. The Trump administration initially pushed that date back, and now has reversed the policy.
While there is no definitive data on the number of transgender service members, Carter had said that according to RAND, an US global policy think tank, there were about 2,500 people out of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members, and about 1,500 out of 825,000 reserve service members who were transgenders.
The upper end of their range of estimates is around 7,000 in the active component and 4,000 in the reserves.
Meanwhile reacting to the latest move, Democratic lawmakers denounced the decision.
“It is a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who stepped forward to serve our country,” said Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.
A study commissioned by the Department of Defence found that the cost of providing medically necessary transition-related care would be a paltry two to eight million per year – one one-hundredth of one per cent of the military’s nearly USD 50 billion healthcare budget, she said.
“This morning’s tweets reveal a president with no loyalty to the courageous men and women in uniform who risk their lives to defend our freedoms.
“This disgusting ban will weaken our military and the nation it defends. Once again, president Trump has shown his conduct is driven not by honour, decency, or national security, but by raw prejudice. This is a dark day for thousands of heroes in our military and for our entire country,” Pelosi said.
Senator Dick Durbin said: “The president’s announcement this morning banning transgender individuals from serving our military ironically falls on the 69th anniversary of president Harry Truman signing an executive order to desegregate the military. Instead of honoring the progress we have made on this historic day, the president chose to put our military, once again, in the middle of a discriminatory policy”.
Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair, said this “arbitrary decision by Donald Trump” does nothing, does not make the US safer or improve readiness.
“Banning qualified and trained transgender individuals from serving in our military weakens our national defence. I am committed to ensuring that our military is the best trained, best equipped and most supported fighting force in the world,” Sanchez said.
Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said 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.
He said the statement was unclear. The Defence Department 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, McCain said.
“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,” McCain said.
Congressman Joe Crowley, Democratic Caucus chairmans, said that this is an extremely offensive decision by the Trump administration.
“Capable, motivated and talented Americans who want to serve their country should be welcomed into our military as patriots – not shunned because of who they are. President Trump and his administration should be ashamed,” Crowley added.