In a series of messages posted on Twitter Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump said the U.S. government will no longer “accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.” Trump said he’s reached the decision to ban transgender people from serving after consulting “generals and military experts,” though he did not specify whom exactly he consulted.
The surprise move came about 13 months after the Department of Defense officially allowed transgender soldiers to serve openly. At the time, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the military’s chief mission is “to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.”
On Wednesday, Trump said, “Our 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.” The move is a reversal of the policies enacted gradually by the Obama administration to foster a more inclusive military. Trump did not address what the move would mean for transgender people already serving in the military.
Criticism of Trump’s announcement and the manner in which it was made began almost instantly and continued throughout the day. U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona slammed the president’s Twitter declaration in a statement, saying, “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military –regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.” McCain also took issue with Trump using social media to make such an announcement. “The President’s tweet this morning regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter,” McCain said. “The statement was unclear. The Department of Defense has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honorably today.”
Earlier in the day, transgender advocacy groups were quick to criticize the announcement. According to The Associated Press, Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe-SLDN, which represents the LGBT population in the military, said the U.S. Armed forces has thousands of transgender service members and they have caused no issues.
“It’s an absolute absurdity and another overstep,” Thorn said, vowing legal action if the Trump administration does not back off the policy. The ACLU also criticized Trump’s announcement in a post on Twitter, saying, “Thousands of trans service-members on the front lines deserve better from their commander-in-chief.”
And Chelsea Manning, the the transgender Army private who was recently released from a military prison after serving seven years of a 35-year sentence for sharing government secrets with WikiLeaks, weighed in on Twitter as well. “so, biggest baddest most $$ military on earth cries about a few trans people 😩 but funds the F-35? 😑 sounds like cowardice 😎💕🌈 #WeGotThis,” Manning said.
Later in the day, Caitlyn Jenner lodged her criticism of the president in a post on Twitter, suggesting he has broken his promise to the LGBT community. Jenner shared a tweet posted by Trump on June 14, 2016, in which Trump, then the Republican presidential nominee, said, “Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”
As The New York Times Archives Twitter feed noted, Trump’s announcement comes exactly 69 years after President Truman desegregated the U.S. military.
Below, watch a 2015 documentary produced by The New York Times called Transgender, at War and in Love. The 12-minute documentary was produced a year before Ash Carter announced the reversal on the transgender ban. It unlfinchingly chronicles the challenges of a transgender military couple, who, at the time, were banned from serving openly.
Read the full story at The New York Times.