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Trump bans trans troops

by Cynthia Laird

President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters
President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters  

Shock, disgust, and anger greeted President Donald Trump's announcement Wednesday that he was banning transgender people from serving in the military, reversing a policy of former President Barack Obama.

Trump took to Twitter as people were waking up on the West Coast, blasting out inaccurate information about the cost of trans health care as he issued his directive.

"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," Trump wrote on Twitter. "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."

Reaction from local LGBT leaders and allies was swift and unsparing.

"I'm disgusted by this bigoted move by President Trump," gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said in a statement. "First, Trump attacks transgender children trying to use the restroom. Now he's attacking trans soldiers who are putting their lives on the line for our country. This man has no shame."

Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) called Trump's action "un-American."

"The president's decision to force transgender individuals out of the military is discriminatory, wrong, and un-American," Harris stated.

"The president's claim that the service of transgender people impacts military readiness is not backed up by facts, nor is it publicly supported by our military leadership," Harris added. "Removing thousands of transgender individuals currently serving would damage our security and make it more difficult to recruit the best possible fighting force going forward. Indeed, [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis recently reaffirmed that all service members should be treated with dignity and respect. The White House is playing politics with our national security, plain and simple."

Shannon Minter, legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said, "In three tweets, Trump is purporting to fire 15,000 transgender service members bravely serving our country and to prevent other patriotic transgender persons from enlisting."

Minter said that while the impact of Trump's tweets is unclear, "banning transgender service members would erode military readiness and contradict our country's values and ideals."

The Palm Center, an independent think tank that has studied LGBT military issues for decades, said that Trump was flat wrong about the financial issue. According to the Rand Corporation, the cost of medical care for trans service members is about $8.4 million per year, or one one-hundredth of 1 percent of the military's health care budget.

Aaron Belkin, a gay man and the longtime director of the center, said Trump is "creating a worse version of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" and said that discrimination harms military readiness.

Earlier this month, Mattis requested and received a six-month extension for trans recruits to enlist in the military, moving the deadline to January 1.

Trans service members already in the military have been serving, openly and authentically, since October 2016, when Obama revised the policy that previously prohibited out service. Lesbians and gays have been serving openly in the military since October 2011, when the repeal of DADT went into effect.

It was unclear what prompted Trump's trio of tweets Wednesday morning.




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