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Scrambling To Figure Out What's Next After Trump Says Transgender Troops Are Banned From Service

Kristen Beck, a decorated combat veteran and first Navy SEAL to come out as transgender, at Veterans' Day Wreath- Laying Ceremony at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC in 2014.
Elvert Barnes/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Kristen Beck, a decorated combat veteran and first Navy SEAL to come out as transgender, at Veterans' Day Wreath- Laying Ceremony at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC in 2014.

From Texas Standard:

In a series of blockbuster tweets this morning, President Donald trump wrote that transgender individuals won’t be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)  July 26, 2017 <script>


....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)  July 26, 2017 <script>

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)  July 26, 2017 <script>


This latest Twitter fusillade raises many substantive questions, and resonates in Texas, where transgender rights are currently up for debate as the so-called "bathroom bills" make their way through the Legislature. Leo Shane, Capitol Hill bureau chief for the  Military Times, says Trump’s announcement was a surprise to him, especially considering the Pentagon’s review over transgender people in the military was supposed to take six months.

“I don’t know that many folks at the Pentagon were expecting an announcement, and certainly the rights groups that have been pushing the military for broader inclusion of transgender troops weren’t expecting this sort of reversal,” Shane says.

Right now, there are about 15,000 transgender people serving in the military, but Defense Secretary James Mattis recently put a hold on any new enlistments of transgender people while the six-month review took place. Shane says that Obama-era policy allows transgender people to serve openly and receive gender-reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. Trump’s tweet appears to be an about-face to that policy.

“Secretary Mattis…made a point saying that transgender troops already in the ranks wouldn’t be affected by any of this. This news from President Trump seems to undermine that, seems to say those folks won’t be allowed to serve anymore,” Shane says.

It’s unclear how official Trump’s announcement is, given that it was a tweet, or how easily the military could enact it. Shane says the military can make policies that affect large groups of people, like the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that ended in 2011, but he says Trump was unclear in his tweet whether his policy would be a complete ban or a requirement that transgender people keep gender issues private.

Trump also argued in his tweet that the military can’t afford the supposed disruptions or medical costs related to transgender troops. But Shane says there’s limited evidence of these disruptions or that there’s been grave impact.

“We haven’t heard any issues of real morale problems, unit cohesion, transgender troops getting in fights so that’s more in the perception of folks down the road,” he says.

As for medical costs, Shane says it’s been the subject of much disagreement among lawmakers in Washington. Conservatives in the House, who have been trying to reverse the Obama-era policy on transgendered people, estimate that annual surgery and hormone-therapy costs range from $150-$200 million per year. The nonprofit, global-policy think tank, Rand Corp., says the cost is closer to $8 million.

“A lot of disputes over what the real expense is gonna be related to this,” Shane says.


Written by Caroline Covington.



Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.