Even With Clarification, Transgender Troops Still Face an Unclear Future

July 26 protests outside the White House following President Trump’s original transgender tweets.
(Unmodified photo by Ted Eytan used under a Creative Commons license. http://bit.ly/1jxQJMa)

On July 26, President Trump shocked both civilians and officials alike with a series of tweets regarding the service of transgender individuals in the United States military.

Trump stated that transgender individuals would no longer be able to “serve in any capacity.” He cited multiple reasons for the ban, stating that the military cannot be “burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender troops.

Despite Trump’s claims that his decision was based on consultations with military experts, the tweets blindsided the Pentagon and many top leaders in every branch of service.

Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley claimed that he had received no information about the ban beforehand, and he learned about it through the media.

The announcement caused widespread confusion from the public and government officials because there were no written directives along with the tweets. Many wondered what the tweets meant for transgender people who were currently serving in the military.

Trump’s actions drew outrage from Democrats, as well as Republicans. Senator John McCain, R-Az., came out against the ban, stating 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.”

A report from RAND indicates that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 active-duty transgender troops. Expenses for transgender-related care are estimated to be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million, which is equivalent to 0.04 to 0.23 percent of the Department of Defense’s health care costs. In contrast, $84 million of health care budget goes toward treating erectile dysfunction.

A month later, the Trump administration has begun to take action and implement official policy regarding the service of transgender individuals.

On Aug. 25, it was clarified that the military will no longer accept transgender troops, and at the end of six months, trans-related medical treatments will cease to be provided. However, there is an exception for those who have already started to undergo treatments.

The Pentagon was given six months to create a plan for how to handle the question of transgender individuals who are currently serving in the military. Much of the decision-making power lies with Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Currently, Mattis is working to create a panel of experts, drawn from the Pentagon and the Homeland Security Department. These experts are tasked with providing advice and recommendations on how to implement Trump’s orders.

The Trump administration currently faces multiple lawsuits as a result of his actions to ban transgender individuals from serving. The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has filed a lawsuit against him, claiming that his administration has violated the “constitutional guarantees of equal protection and substantive due process.”

Transgender troops have only been able to serve openly in the military since 2016, when restrictions on their service were lifted under the Obama administration.

While Trump’s recent memo to the government has provided more clarification and formal information than his tweets two months ago, the future for transgender troops is still relatively unclear.

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