American President Donald Trump announced this week that transgender military personnel would no longer be able to serve in the US army ‘in any capacity’.
The president announced through a series of three tweets on Wednesday that the US military would no longer accept transgender personnel among their ranks due to the ‘tremendous medical costs and disruption’ involved.
Trump, who says he consulted his military experts and generals, reached the decision to ensure ‘decisive and overwhelming victory’ for the US military in the future. The tweets have sparked anger in the US and internationally, with some calling the decision a violation of human rights.
The tweets themselves have no legal power as such, but many serving transgender Americans are now asking where their future in the military lies. With 15,000 people who are transgender active in the military and an estimated 134,000 transgender veterans, the proposed ban could affect a significant amount of people and their careers if it comes into effect.
Many transgenders fear that they could lose their official status or be forced to revert to their birth gender within the military, even after having come out to their colleagues. In a BBC interview with Joel Gunter, Sergeant Ochoa, who is transgender, said that such a change would be ‘unworkable for the troops and it’s unworkable for the military, and it will compromise military readiness’.
Transgender people have long been a part of the US military, some in secret and others openly to their fellow soldiers, but this new statement from Donald Trump prohibiting them from serving has been questioned on its moral and financial nature.
The estimated $2.4 million – $8.4 million dollars spent on transgender members of the US army is dwarfed by the $49.3 billion on the US Department of Defense health care costs. That makes the amount spent on transgender people equivalent to 0.004-0.017% of the total outgoings, according to a RAND Corporation study.
It comes a year after previous US Defence Secretsry Ash Carter ended the transgender ban last year, allowing transgender people in the military full rights to medical care, representing one of the last steps in ending discrimination on personal grounds in the military. Carter also announced the abolishment of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in 2011 which only allowed LGBTQ soldiers to serve if they didn’t disclose their sexuality.
The White House has yet to announce if there will be a difference in policy for currently serving transgender members of the military compared to new recruits.