On July 26, 2017, President Trump released a series of three tweets regarding transgender individuals in the military. His tweets declared that transgender individuals would be barred from any role in the military due to the need for “decisive and overwhelming… victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption.” The contents of the three tweets are shown below. Open Americas condemns the policy indicated by these tweets by the current administration.
This legal action against transgender individuals calls to mind the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy implemented under the Bill Clinton administration, which prevented non-heterosexual members of the military from being able to openly admit their sexual orientation. It also prohibited the families of gay military members from receiving the same benefits as other military families. This policy was ended by President Obama in his first term, in 2011. Clinton has since indicated remorse for the policy, but argues it was his attempt to prevent a complete ban on gay individuals in the military – which, for transgender individuals, is occurring through this declaration made by Trump.
The ACLU finds that “about one-fifth of all transgender adults are veterans, making transgender people approximately twice as likely as others to serve in the military.” This country is no stranger to a ban on transgender in the military, but Obama’s administration planned to reverse that policy. Back in 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter released directives aimed at incorporating transgender individuals into the military, calling the ban on their involvement “outdated.” In June 2016, the ban was lifted, and transgender individuals already in the military could express themselves as transgender. Training for military officials on how to incorporate these individuals in an appropriate manner was to be completed July 1, 2017, which would also be the date where transgender individuals could openly identify themselves as transgender when enlisting. Trump’s Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, halted this progress, declaring he would consider the potential for transgender individuals to openly enlist in the military on January 1, 2018. Now, with these tweets, the Trump administration further affirms that it will choose to destroy the progress of efforts to achieve equal rights in America.
Banning transgender individuals from serving in the military is discrimination. Former Secretary of Defense Carter’s actions highlighted a military ready for progress and ready to defend the rights of all of its citizens, not just those that fit into a more conventional narrative. By upholding the ban, the Trump administration supports and promotes discrimination and directly reverses previous progress to encourage equality. We at Open Americas strongly condemn the stance the Trump presidency has taken against transgender individuals.