By Staff Writer
President Donald Trump has again baffled the entire nation with his tweets—this time while attempting to ban transgender people from military service in any capacity via his Twitter throne.
The July 26 proclamation of sorts surprised everyone from top military officials to ordinary citizens alike; even White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders had little to say at an August 2 press briefing, going so far as threatening to end the meeting because of all the unanswerable questions.
“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. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail. Thank you,” Trump tweeted.
Despite the certainty with which Trump made his proclamation, it’s still uncertain how or even if this series of tweets will be implemented.
On Friday, August 25, 2017, Trump signed a directive banning the armed forces from recruiting any more transgender service members. The memo also banned the Department of Defense from providing medical treatment regimens for transgender troops. White House personnel did not confirm if current US troops were able to still serve in the military. In addition, Trump also released a memo which calls for a study on how to deal with and release transgender troops from the military.
On Tuesday, July 29, it was reported that Secretary of Defense James Mattis had frozen Trump’s ban on transgender troops. Unfortunately, the report seems to be misleading as Mattis argued that he is doing what President Trump’s memo said by taking no action until secretaries come up with an effective plan on how to execute the “trans ban.” Basically, Mattis is not going to enforce anything until a direct plan is created.
As for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, they have told the military that no policy changes will take place regarding transgender service members until they receive further, official guidance from the President, according to Reuters foreign policy correspondent, Idrees Ali. In other words, tweets alone don’t cut it, and until Trump supplies something substantive, nothing will happen.
Happily, military officials seem all too ready to ignore the President’s attempted ban, probably because they know better than anyone that the only true disruption and financial costs would result from attempting to remove thousands of active, highly-trained transgender personnel.
There’s another small problem with Trump’s tweets, aside from the fact that they’re highly discriminatory and convoluted: they’re also factually wrong. Do, in fact, transgender service members cost the military “tremendously” and disrupt combat readiness and cohesion? According to a 2016 RAND study, “Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly,” President Trump’s claims are false. On RAND’s website, the study’s key findings are listed as follows:
There Are an Estimated 1,320–6,630 Transgender Service Members in the Active Component [on active duty], but Not All Will Seek Gender Transition-Related Treatment
The Cost of Gender Transition-Related Health Care Treatment is Relatively Low (would increase active-component health care expenditures by just 0.04 to 0.13 percent.)
Previous Integration Efforts and the Experiences of Foreign Militaries Indicate a Minimal Likely Impact on Force Readiness.
How, in the face of all of this evidence, can we interpret Trump’s tweets as anything less than a desperate bid to shore up his popularity among hard-line conservatives? It’s common knowledge that segments of Trump’s base and some of his closest political allies are against LGBT rights—including the vocally anti-gay, religiously-overzealous Vice President.
Where, after all, could be heard the cacophonous chorus of ultra-conservatives demanding an outright ban on transgender military members? Conservatives have repeatedly said they don’t want to pay for transgender military members’ medical treatment, but few have come out in favor of a ban. Trump seems to have miscalculated, thinking this vitriol would somehow shore up his party’s declining faith in his abilities.
If Trump was trying to unify the government, the military, and the citizenry, he largely succeeded; Democrats and Republicans, a majority of Americans (anywhere from 58% to 62% according to polls by Reuters and Ipsos, and Quinnipac University, respectively) and an overwhelming number of military officials are against the ban, and have expressed their solidarity with the transgender community.
Even Orrin Hatch, Republican Senator from Utah and former bishop in the Mormon church, reacted strongly against Trump’s tweets, saying “I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone. Transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them.”
The President’s tweets show that despite the LGBT community’s many victories, struggles yet remain on the road to freedom and equality.