Trump Targets Trans People Serving In U.S. Military
Up to 15,000 trans men and women will be impacted.
Photo courtesy of the Transgender American Veterans Association
America has become accustomed to waking up to Donald Trump’s tweets about various issues he’s angry or resentful about. He’s still talking about Hillary Clinton, the Fake News Media and in recent days, his own Attorney General. No one could have been prepared for his tweets on July 26, however—least of all the thousands of transgender men and women serving in the U.S. military.
The shocking tweets were met with universal outrage from every quarter, at home and abroad. In June 2016 then-President Obama issued an order allowing transgender persons to serve in the military. Trump’s tweeted statement was not explained in a later press conference with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. She had no information on how this new idea from the president would be implemented—nor when, nor even what it meant. Repeated questions from reporters left her floundering.
Trump’s tweeted military ban against transgender military personnel reverses a policy initially approved by the Defense Department in 2016, which was still under final review, that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.
While there are no clear numbers, trans rights and veterans groups put the number of transgender military personnel at as many as 15,000.
Trump’s tweets were all the more disconcerting because he had claimed as a candidate to support LGBT people. That has not been the case for President Trump.
Soon the hashtag #TransRightsAreHumanRights was trending. Chelsea Manning, arguably the most famous trans person in America and certainly in the military, responded to Trump with her characteristic aplomb.
BRADLEY MANNING, VIA WIKI COMMONS
CHELSEA MANNING, VIA TWITTER
Manning entered the U.S. military at 17 as Bradley, became a whistleblower at 22, and then served time in federal prison for whistleblowing. While in prison she transitioned to Chelsea and upon her release last month, has been a low-key but immensely positive voice for trans people on social media and beyond.
Manning received assaultive tweets in response to taking on Trump, but stood her ground with civility and amazing calm.
Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle also were quick to express their distress that the president would choose to attack active members of the service in a time of war. Sen. John McCain, recently diagnosed with brain cancer and who was a POW in Vietnam for five years, issued a statement on Trump’s tweets:
"The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense 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," the Arizona Republican said in a statement. "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."
McCain is chairman of the Senate armed services committee. He also said that until there is a full study and that study is complete and reviewed by the secretary of defense, military leadership and Congress, "no decision is appropriate."
There were surprising voices of assent, like that of Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, a longtime antagonist of LGBT people. Shelby told the CNN "Newsroom," "You ought to treat everybody fairly and give everybody a chance to serve. "You have to remember our military force is a volunteer force."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, whose district includes San Francisco, issued her own statement that the policy change is a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who stepped forward to serve our country.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is the top Democrat on the armed services committee. Reed was quick to point out that July 26 was the 69th anniversary of President Truman’s desegregation order.
"Today, on the anniversary of President Harry Truman's order desegregating the United States Armed Forces, President Trump is choosing to retreat in the march toward equality," Reed said in a statement.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), a frequent and outspoken critic of the president, told CNN, "I served on active duty in the military, and I can tell you we don't care about gender orientation or identity or who you love, we just care if you can shoot straight and complete the mission. This is actually hurting our military readiness, and I hope he reverses his decision."
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), who lost both her legs in the Iraq War, issued a statement of her own.
SENATOR TAMMY DUCKWORTH
"When my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind. If you are willing to risk your life for our country and you can do the job, you should be able to serve—no matter your gender identity, sexual orientation or race. Anything else is discriminatory and counterproductive to our national security."
Veterans were in support of trans in the military as well.
Even the Mormons were against the ban.
Many Americans have ceased to question why Trump does what he does or why. But these consistent attacks on American citizens have begun to wear on us as a nation. One doesn’t have to be a fan of the military nor even be an active supporter of transgender civil rights to know Trump’s latest ban is a violation of our most basic American values. The ACLU issued a statement from Joshua Block, senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project.
"This is an outrageous and desperate action. The thousands of transgender service members serving on the front lines for this country deserve better than a commander-in-chief who rejects their basic humanity." Block said, "Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The president is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country."
Block said the ACLU would be available to help trans persons in the military who needed legal support. "There is no basis for turning trans people away from our military and the ACLU is examining all of our options on how to fight this. For any trans service member affected by today’s announcement, please get in touch with us, because we want to hear from you."
Human Rights Campaign was also succinct, calling on all Americans to support trans troops. "This is all hands on deck. Please join in getting the White House on the phone today. Text "OUR TROOPS" to 30644 and demand Trump reverse his action on transgender service members immediately."
In the end, it will come down to courage. Kristen Beck has it. Other trans members of the military have it. Our president, who dodged the draft five times yet deems thousands of active personnel in a time of war to be unfit? Not so much.