Using his favourite social media platform to deliver divisive, potentially life-changing news, President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday (26 July) that following “consultation with my generals and military experts” the United States government will not “accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US military.”
Citing “the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail” as a burden that would derail the military’s focus on “decisive and overwhelming victory”, Trump’s tweets were received with shock and outrage by many, including military veterans.
The tweets also directly opposed the actions put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama, who last year lifted the ban on openly transgender service personnel, allowing them to receive medical care and to formally change their identity while employed by the Pentagon – and to no longer be subject to discharge based purely on being transgender.
Figures vary wildly, but it is thought that between 1,300 and 15,500 transgender people serve in the US military, and so far, the White House has been unable to elaborate on how a reinstated ban would affect those currently employed, and shut down further questions on the tweets during a press conference.
Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve. Full stop.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 26, 2017
You'd think a guy who dodged the draft 5 times would be happy there are people who want to serve voluntarily.— shauna (@goldengateblond) July 26, 2017
transgender people show more courage when they leave their fucking houses in the morning than donald trump has shown his entire life— Matt Bellassai (@MattBellassai) July 26, 2017
Sorry I was led to believe that trans people were so skilled in combat that I should fear being alone in a bathroom with them— Mark Agee (@MarkAgee) July 26, 2017
Meanwhile, other reports have pointed out that the estimated healthcare cost of transgender personnel – calculated by the independent Rand Corporation – would reach an annual maximum of $8.4 million (£6.4 million), a figure around a tenth of the Pentagon’s yearly spend on erectile dysfunction medication, such as Viagra.
Many have been expressing their disgust with the president’s move with the hashtag #TransRightsAreHumanRights, and several high-profile Twitter users have spoken out against him – including Caitlyn Jenner, who has been outspoken on her support of Trump in the past.
Banning transgender people from serving our country is simply wrong. We should be so grateful to anybody who wants to serve!— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) July 26, 2017
To all the trans folks currently serving in the military thank you for your service. I am sorry your "commander in chief" doesn't value it.— Laverne Cox (@Lavernecox) July 26, 2017
Donald: With your ban on trans people from the military, you are on notice that you just pissed off the wrong community. You will regret it.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) July 26, 2017
TV host James Corden opted for a musical number spelling out his thoughts on the matter, in a skit shown on The Late Late Show.
Trump has never served in the military, having received five deferments from military draft during the Vietnam War.
While he has even previously claimed to be supportive of the LGBT community, a sentiment trotted out while he was campaigning to be president, his recent tweets have obviously caused alarm and distress.
Many have pointed out the significant danger in forcing people to disguise their true selves, causing irreparable psychological damage – ironically, something much more likely to ‘disrupt’ the military than a transgender person living openly.
However, non-profit legal and advocacy organisation The American Civil Liberties Union has since stated that if Trump follows up on his messages with action, it stands “ready to take legal action” – and that tweets alone cannot instantly change military regulations.
Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2016
Until those rules are changed, trans people can serve openly. If those rules are changed, we stand ready to take legal action.— ACLU (@ACLU) July 26, 2017
Tweets are not self-executing: trans people cannot simply be thrown out of the military because of this tweet.— ACLU (@ACLU) July 26, 2017
Image: Rex Features