August 3, 2017; New York Times
In a series of tweets, because that’s how presidential proclamations are delivered these days, President Trump barred all transgender individuals from serving in the military. On Wednesday, July 26, 2017, the tweets read, in sequence, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. 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.”
Several cities and police departments around the country have reached out to the trans community and shown their support with the message that their departments would welcome any trans military members who were kicked out due to the ban. Departments in Houston and Austin, Texas; Aurora, Colorado; and Cincinnati, Ohio encouraged those kicked out of the military to apply for police jobs in their regions.
“If you are dismissed from our military because of who you are, know that you are welcome in the city of Cincinnati and our police department,” Chris Seelbach, a city councilman, said at a protest last Wednesday in response to Mr. Trump’s announcement.
While White House staff scrambled to answer questions, activists across the country rallied and petitioned against what has been called an “all-out assault on service members.” Some have called this a political move, an effort to diminish Democrats’ chances of winning elections in the Rust Belt states, while others call this a distraction from larger issues such as the Russian election investigation, the health care bill, and filling the 200 or so empty White House staff positions. Either way, it weakens the U.S. military by removing an estimated 15,000 active members from duty.
Although it began to appear as if a ban could not truly happen since no official plan was issued, on Friday, August 4th, White House sources indicated that a document titled “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out” would be released soon to implement the ban. According to the Washington Blade, “Sources familiar with the planning said it would encourage early retirement, usher out any enlisted personnel after their contract is up, and would fire trans officers up for promotion. Basically, said a source, ‘the administration wants to get rid of transgender service members as fast as they can.’” But, as with other directives from this administration, there appears to be a significant resistance to taking such a backward step.—Sheela Nimishakavi