President Trump's Transgender Order Draws Instant Condemnation

July 26th 2017

Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump announced a shocking decision that seemed to come out of nowhere. In three tweets, he revealed that he was reversing a policy move by former President Barack Obama and barring transgender Americans from serving in the military.

The move, announced one day before the military was required to update its medical standards to accommodate transgender service members, is a reversal of several years of progress.

In 2016, Obama announced that a year would be given to determine how best to integrate transgender people into the armed forces. However, earlier this month, two dozen House Republicans joined all Democrats in rejecting an amendment that would have blocked the Pentagon from offering gender transition to active duty service members.

Trump's announcement drew instant and widespread condemnation from Democratic members of Congress.

Others pointed out how the move seemed to go against previous statements from the Trump family:

Human rights advocates and veterans groups also spoke out against the decision, with at least one American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorney offering his services to transgender military and reserve members facing discharge or discrimination.

There's no definitive number of how many transgender Americans are in the military now. One study by think tank RAND Corporation stated the number of active transgender military members could be anywhere from 1,300 to 6,600; while another study the Williams Institute at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) speculated there might be as many as 15,000.

Will they be discharged?

Nobody seems to know, and the Pentagon had no knowledge it was coming. As Trump's "policy" came in the form of tweets with no guidance or regulation from the Pentagon, it's not clear on what will happen to the transgender people currently serving.

While Trump claimed that "tremendous medical costs and disruption" were his reasoning for barring transgender service, research doesn't bear out that either of these are an issue for the military right now.

The RAND Corporation's report found "little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness" in foreign militaries that allowed transgender service, and that gender reassignment surgery paid for by the military is extremely rare, and that just "29 [to] 129 service members in the active component seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy." The cost of such surgeries was estimated at around $8 million per year.

While the details of the ban haven't been announced, and it's likely to be challenged in court, many on social media couldn't resist pointing out that Trump's decision to forbid military service from certain Americans came on the anniversary of a milestone in civil rights: former President Harry Truman's executive order desegregating the armed forces.