On Wednesday morning President Trump announced a major policy change in the US military, proclaiming on Twitter that transgender people will be banned from serving "in any capacity." The shocking policy shift comes barely a year after the Obama administration instituted a landmark achievement for the rights of transgender military personnel by ending the ban on trans servicemen.
"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," the President stated early this morning. "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."
For transgender Americans who have served in the US military—and those who support trans rights anywhere—the decision is a disgrace. Brittyn Calyx is a trans woman and former Private First Class in the Army National Guard, who was discharged under Don't Ask Don't Tell "for three years during the height of the Iraq War." The idea that transgender military personnel are "disruptive" to the primary mission of US military simply isn't true, she told Broadly.
"Gender dysphoria affects different people differently, but it doesn't really impact job performance as long as the employer creates an environment that is accepting and validating," Calyx said. "That can be done in the military, and it should."
"Every attack against trans people means that some, especially our trans youth, will look out on this world and seem to find they don't belong."
"This does great harm to people who simply want to serve their country, and have been doing so with distinction and without disruption to our mission," said Brynn Tannehll, a former Lt. Commander and trans woman who served in the US Navy for more than a decade.
Trump's suggestion that transgender military personnel burden the military with undue financial strain is factually unfounded. Research by the Rand Corporation into this very subject has shown that the medical expenses associated with trans people in the military are negligible; medical care for trans military personnel is estimated to "have a marginal impact on health care costs and the readiness of the force."
"We have been serving honorably for decades," Tannehill affirmed. "The current policy has been going smoothly." So what's the problem? Though Trump cited how disruptive and expensive trans people would be to the military, others have suggested the decision is based on discrimination.
"While he may cite 'tremendous medical costs and disruption' as the basis for this decision, this claim has been disproven," said Congressman Marc Pocan, who serves on the Congressional LGBT Caucus. "In reality, his decision is based in discrimination and an effort to reverse progress made under the Obama Administration." Pocan believes that "since the first day of his campaign, President Trump has denigrated and disrespected the LGBT community." He is calling for Trump to "immediately reverse course on his decision."
To Calyx, this decision goes beyond policy, and even beyond the transgender men and women who are currently enlisted or have served in the armed forces. She worries about what message this will send to the new generation of transgender youth who are trying to view themselves as part of America. "Every attack against trans people means that some, especially our trans youth, will look out on this world and seem to find they don't belong," Calyx said.
"I'm a former Marine, tech seller for a big tech company, and transgender," said 58-year-old Connie Rice. "I served; Trump never did. His bone spurs disappeared the first time he played golf. He is a self-absorbed narcissistic fuckwit. His decision hurts thousands of serving people—and their families. It's based on ignorance and bigotry."