WASHINGTON, D.C. — Another early-morning Twitter rant has shot out of the Oval Office like a particularly scalding case of diarrhea. This time, Donald Trump announced on social media that transgender people would no longer be permitted to serve in the U.S. military in any capacity.
According to figures from the Williams Institute, approximately 15,500 of those actively serving in the U.S. military are transgender people. Combined with veterans and retired service members, nearly 150,000 transgender people have served this nation at the risk of their lives.
Trump’s tweets cite the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender military personnel. His view is shared by the Family Research Council, an organization that the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group.
“The last thing we should be doing is diverting billions of dollars from mission-critical training to something as controversial as gender reassignment surgery. However, the cost to readiness, recruitment, retention, morale and cohesion would have been even greater under the Obama policy.”
In fact, the Department of Defense (DOD) sponsored a year-long study to assess the financial costs and other consequences of allowing transgender enlistment prior to former President Barack Obama’s policy allowing open, proud service to all in the LGBTQ community. The DOD study found minimal costs, financial or otherwise.
“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,” asserted Joshua Block, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. “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.”
“In no way would such a ban be a cost-saving measure,” agreed Williams Institute Scholar of Public Policy Jody L. Herman. “It is a consistent finding in research that has been conducted over many years that transgender people serve in the military at rates even higher than the U.S. general population.”
Many other individuals and groups have rallied to denounce the ban. The Human Rights Campaign notes that an inside source from the Trump administration suggested the move to be a political maneuver attempting to influence 2018 elections.
“This is the biggest injustice our country has faced since I marched on that bridge in Selma,” Sen. John Lewis said in a statement. “It doesn’t matter if we are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We are one people. We are one family.”
Even the Log Cabin Republicans (LCR), a conservative LGBTQ political group, rapidly spoke out against the order.
“Excommunicating transgender soldiers only weakens our readiness; it doesn’t strengthen it,” and LCR statement read. “The president’s statement this morning does a disservice to transgender military personnel and reintroduces the same hurtful stereotypes conjured when openly gay men and women were barred from service during the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ era.”
Ironically, in nearby Alexandria, Va., the Equality Federation Conference gathered more than 200 LGBTQ activist leaders from across the country on the same day as the tweets. The federation released a joint statement:
“Today’s reprehensible attack on transgender military personnel by President Trump is unconscionable. The more than 15,000 transgender Americans who serve our country today deserve nothing but respect from their commander-in-chief. Transgender service members are brave patriots, not burdens or disruptions. The Defense Department has already extensively studied readiness issues concerning transgender people serving openly, so there is no reason to believe that this policy is anything other than blatant discrimination. To every transgender person in the United States: We see you, we love you, and we will never stop fighting for you.”