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Trump’s Transgender Ban Could Force Out Thousands of Service Members

Trump’s Transgender Ban Could Force Out Thousands of Service Members Published Date : 27 Jul 2017
President Trump has announced that transgender Americans will not be allowed to serve “in any capacity” in the U.S. military, a move that could affect thousands of people serving in the armed forces and which resulted in almost immediate pushback from influential Republicans.

Trump tweeted Wednesday that the U.S. 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.”

Former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced last June that transgender individuals would be able to serve openly in the military. He issued guidance for medical care for these soldiers—including those who transitioned during their service—as well as training military leaders. Since then, it has been the military’s policy not to discharge or deny reenlistment to service members based solely on their gender identity. The full policy was set to be implemented by July 1, 2017. But at the end of June, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced a six-month delay to review the plan, assessing whether it would hurt the “readiness or lethality” of American troops.

Trump’s announcement is the latest in a set of steps his administration has taken to walk back Obama-era policies on transgender Americans. The biggest shift is the reasoning: Rather than framing his decision in the language of rights or morality, as Obama-era officials did, Trump spoke about the new transgender policy in terms of military efficiency. The decision is likely to trigger major blowback from Democratic legislators and LGBT activists who long pushed for full acceptance of transgender service members. It will also bring gender identity back into the spotlight, reigniting a culture-war debate surrounding a president who has tried to sell himself as a friend of LGBT rights.

Rand, a research think tank, estimated there are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender Americans serving in the military out of 1.3 million active-service members. The Williams Institute, a think tank housed at UCLA’s law school, puts the total number of active-duty and guard or reserve service members higher, estimating that 15,500 transgender people are part of those military forces. The institute’s researchers also calculated that 134,300 veterans identify as transgender.

Although it’s impossible to know how many members would need gender-transition-related services, it’s likely that only a fraction would want to transition while in service—Rand suggested that somewhere between 29 and 129 people per year would make those requests. The “upper bound” of estimated requests was “0.1 percent of the total force,” Rand wrote. The expected costs related to these services were between $2.4 million and $8.4 million each year.

When Mattis announced the delay in implementing the Obama-era guidelines, he questioned how the policy would affect service members’ ability to perform their duties. “Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: Will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force?” Mattis said, according to The Washington Post. “Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America’s military to defend the nation?”

While there has not been much research done on this question, according to Rand, policies welcoming lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans to serve openly in the military did not diminish units’ effectiveness. The Rand researchers expected “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness” resulting from Obama’s policy.

Former Secretary Carter issued a statement criticizing Trump’s decision on Wednesday morning. “I continue to maintain that what matters in choosing those who serve is that they are best qualified. To choose service members on other grounds that military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military,” he said. “There are already transgender individuals who are serving capably and honorably. This action would also send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about military service.”



Calender 2017