“President” Trump Bans Trans People From Military Service via F*cking Twitter

Feature image via Shutterstock

Donald Trump decided to switch up his morning Twitter time today, putting the breaks on his relentless 140-character lies that he and his campaign didn’t work with Russia to steal the White House, and moving ahead with a “plan” to ban all transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.

“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 US Military,” he tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [sic] in the military would entail.”

By all accounts, Trump’s announcement completely caught the Pentagon off-guard — but while the news seemed to come out of nowhere, reversing Obama’s progress for LGBT people has been once of Mike Pence’s top priorities. According to Foreign Policy magazine, three separate but nearly identical amendments to the 2018 defense spending bill were introduced by Republicans this week. They aim to roll back the Obama-era guideline that covers medical transition for trans service members. And while Pence’s spokesperson said Pence has been focusing on healthcare, multiple sources confirmed to Foreign Policy that “Pence and his staff have been reaching out to Republican members of the House to push for the amendment to be included.”

Pence was no doubt aided by Defense Secretary James Mattis in his quest to destroy progressive protections. Last June, Obama’s secretary of defense, Ash Carter, laid out a 12-month timeline from the Pentagon to ensure that trans troops would be able to serve openly by June 2017. Mattis delayed that timeline almost immediately after being appointed to the job by Trump. Mattis was firmly opposed to overturning Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and he also doesn’t believe women should be allowed to serve in combat zones. “We fear that an uninformed public is permitting political leaders to impose an accretion of social conventions that are diminishing the combat power of our military,” he wrote in 2016.

Mattis told Trump the Pentagon needed more time to study the costs and effects of allowing trans people serving openly in the military, but, as Vox points out, there have already been numerous studies on the subject, including one just last year that found “the cost of medically treating transgender troops would be relatively low, around $2.4 million to $8.4 million annually, which would be a 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase in health care costs.” That’s a fraction of the $84 million the Department of Defense spends on erectile dysfunction every year. It’s not just that study; all available evidence disproves the claim that allowing trans people to serve openly in the military harms combat readiness or isn’t cost effective.

The former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen agrees with the research. Just Tuesday he admonished Congress to accept trans service members and treat them with the respect they deserve.

So let’s just call this what it is: Trump is desperate to change the conversation surrounding his presidency. He and his family and his advisors are mired in scandal that starts with Russian collusion and seems to be sprawling out into the history of Trump’s financial empire. His son, his son-in-law, and his former campaign manager are inevitably heading to Congress to testify about their contact with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. His attorney general, it’s now clear, has perjured himself twice before the Senate about his own dealings with the Kremlin. Trump even recently enquired about whether or not he can pardon himself. The only distraction at this point is healthcare, which the Republicans technically won on yesterday by shoving through a decision to debate repealing Obamacare, but no amount of unhinged speeches to Boy Scouts is going to make that decision any more popular.

Trump clearly pulled the trigger on an announcement that was not ready to be made — what’s even going to happen to the thousands of active trans troops who already came out and are serving and receiving healthcare under the Obama-era guidelines? — to appease one of the only groups of people standing by his side (delusional white evangelical Christians) and get a reprieve from the onslaught of reporting that continues to delegitimize his presidency.

The backlash to Trump’s announcement — which, again, he made on fucking Twitter — has been swift and strong. Dozens of Congresspeople, including (weirdly enough) John McCain, have spoken out against it. And many LGBTQ celebrities and activists have weighed in as well.

For more information about trans people serving openly in the military:

+ The Army Taught Me That I Can Change My Body (And It Will Still Be Mine) by Vivian on Autostraddle

+ Transgender in the military: A Pentagon in transition weighs its policy on The Washington Post

+ Transgender, at war and in love on The New York Times

+ TransMilitary, a documentary

Update: Politico is reporting that Trump made today’s announcement as a convoluted way to secure funding for his border wall. Apparently the House was planning to pass a spending bill that funded some of his campaign promises, among them the wall. But the bill was close to blowing up because there was a stipulation that provided Pentagon funding for gender confirmation surgery for trans tropes. Trump got wind of it and decided to just ban trans troops all together. “Problem” solved, nothing in the way of him and his border wall money.


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Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her partner, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Heather has written 710 articles for us.

52 Comments

  1. “So let’s just call this what it is: Trump is desperate to change the conversation surrounding his presidency.”

    Yes.

    Whenever someone asks me if I saw Trump’s latest horrible tweet, my first thought is “what else is going on that he doesn’t want us to notice?”

    Which doesn’t make this latest announcement any less horrible or outrageous. And thank you for the in depth coverage.

  2. I wish I could take a mental health day off work because I just can’t right now. And to all those people who said “We should give him a chance.” HOW MANY MORE CHANCES DO WE NEED TO GIVE HIM??? He has done NOTHING decent in the past 7 months.

    I guess the plus side is that I will definitely be buying a Gender Traitor tee shirt when I get paid next week.

    • Caitlin, that’s exactly what I had to do 🙁 I even called it in as “mental health day”. I think we need to bring more awareness to the importance of mental health, and not just “work through it” when we are grappling with our feelings. Pushing our emotions aside and not taking care of mental health can impact our physical health as well.

  3. As a transgender veteran, I feel sick right now. Maybe I’ll say more when I calm down from the rage of having a five time draft dodger deciding trans* people can’t serve for no reason than he feels the need to consolidate his political base.

    • Rachel, I’m sorry. I am sorry that you and our entire country have to suffer the indignity of being an American under this POTUS. We owe you a debt of gratitude that can never be fully repaid. We owe all service women and men that same debt. I struggled as a lesbian under DADT. It didn’t end well for me. I truly believed things were changing. Clearly, I was wrong. So, we fight on.

  4. I have been trying to come up with something here, but the F-Word is the only thing I can really come up with. Just a loud, angry, and disappointed “fuck”.

    I am not surprised that Trump announced this. Not even in the way he did it too. Of course he would use the platform that he feels is his “safe space” to announce policy decisions. Of course he would announce said decisions without consulting anyone. And of course he would use this announcement as a shell game to distract everyone from what is really going on.

    I’m not out yet. I want to be. I want to be true to who I am as a trans woman. But policy and politics done out of spite (to a former president and to a group of people) is just awful. I’m sorry I don’t have any other words than just that word fuck.

  5. Nice work banning the people who decided that despite the threat of abuse and violence they might face from THEIR FELLOW SOLDIERS, joined up anyways because that is how strong their commitment is to serving their country. I challenge the department of defense to find more dedicated soldiers than the estimated 11,000 active duty and reserve transgender troops they currently employ.

  6. I want a real life ban hammer so I can banish him back to what ever dimension he was summoned from because we’re being burdened with tremendous financial,spiritual, emotional costs and societal disruptions from being all that we can be.

    Sorry if my focus seems all wacky my mind is not very decisive right now on things like sleeping or staring in the colorless abyss.

  7. I’m just.. FUCK THIS FUCKING SHIT STAIN OF A “PRESIDENT”

    How do I help? Who do I call? I want to bother some politicians today. I want to scream and fight and make some serious noise. Trans active duty and veterans deserve more and better. They deserve the world god damn it.

  8. George Carlin once said, “Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers.” I guess that doesn’t apply to trans people, they just want us gone. Well you know what we will never leave, as long as people exist we will always exist.

    Also, we have money to give every service member Viagra pills. Like what good is having wood going to do in combat when your the one getting fucked over by a President who dodged the draft, because he’s a asshole who’s never one a proper fight in his life.

  9. I always see people saying, “He’s just doing this to distract us,” and it always kind of makes me angry. Less so when it’s other LGBT folks saying it, but still. I mean, even if it is the case that it’s a distraction, what are we supposed to do with that information? Just ignore it to focus on a “bigger” issue? There’s enough random people that dehumanize trans people already. Now the president is using a massive platform to make dehumanizing us offical policy. Seems like a pretty big issue on its own.

    I don’t know. Maybe everyone’s right, but it’s just hard for me to wrap my head around how warped your brain would have to be to think this is a positive way to steer the conversation away from something you don’t want people to pay attention to.

    It’s like if you found out someone robbed a nun and you say, “Man, that’s really messed up,” and then, with a big smile on their face they say, “Oh… well, I also kicked a baby!”

    • Yeah, I get the sentiment behind the “this is a distraction!” argument in that it’s covering up for something else even worse so don’t lose sight of this other Terrible Thing™, but it implies that we can only focus on one crisis/issue at a time.

      Newsflash: my capacity for outrage knows no limits! I am perfectly capable of multitasking, I’ll just add another bullet point on my “shit to call my congressperson about” list.

    • Lauren Duca (Teen Vogue writer) tweeted, “Stop saying the transgender ban is a distraction. It contributes wide-spread distress, but also has real implications. Use your entire brain,” which I think is a really striking, but unsatisfying response. Calling this a distraction does feel a bit like trivializing this huge, sweeping assault on trans people, and it does feel like it minimizes the precedent it sets for future attempts to attack the few rights that have been semi-protected for them in recent years.

      That said, as hard as it is and as much as it sucks, at some point we all need to come to terms with the fact that, to Donald Trump, this is a distraction. To his base, he can say, “here, here’s an attack against a group you hate. I’m still your guy, and this is me winning for you.” And they will froth at the mouth, grunt, and attach his campaign stickers to their favorite guns.

      Meanwhile, those of us opposed to him have one more very important, urgent, life-threatening obstacle to tackle if we want to keep our trans siblings safe. And it’s absolutely worth doing whatever’s necessary–marching, calling and visiting our reps, donating to the ACLU, SPLC, etc.–but it is going to divert our attention from the other big battles on the table, too (HEALTHCARE, Muslim ban, unlawful deportations of Latinx people, the justice departments continued failure to protect black and brown and mentally ill people from a militarized police force, attacks on PP/reproductive rights, and, of course, Russia).

      I don’t want it to sound trivial, because every attack on the rights of trans people is life or death and also an attack on our entire community, which would not exist as we know it without them, but this is a big, mean, horrifying distraction. It’s been a long time coming, too.

      Donald Trump is a very bad man, surrounded and bolstered by other very bad men who wish to do us harm, no matter the cost. We have to recognize that these men would absolutely set the house next door ablaze if it meant turning our heads away from the forest fire they started down the street.

      We have to use our entire brains if we want to outlive these rich, white, cishet male fucknuts.

        • I have been thinking about this ever since I saw the ban. I agree with Heather.

          45 sees trans people as a rallying point for a niche in his base. These attacks hit all the right places for his agenda. He knows exactly what the response will be, emotionally,on both sides.

          It’s infuriating to be treated like pawns on a chess board, rather than as people.

          Luckily, the resistance has responded with amazing stories of courage backed by the faces of real people. I hope this can cut through the noise and change hearts.

          Multitask away, bc on the other side of the room, the ACA skinny bill failed, the Dept of Interior is reconsidering Natl Monument status and Ag is approving new pesticides left and heart.

          It’s exhausting but queers are fierce.

  10. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I saw that a reporter contacted a Trump administration official and this was their response,

    “This forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue. How will the blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?”

    I think we had all grown accustomed to politicians doing lots of fucked up stuff, but they were usually more subtle about it. This administration is like the supervillain just blatantly revealing their dastardly plan right before pointing the giant laser cannon at us and obliterating us all. I’m surprised they don’t end all of their communications with a triumphant cackle.

  11. Excellent (although terrifying) reporting as usual.

    What is so exasperating is why even try to hide behind such easily debunkable claims? It’s insulting on top of being henious. This is no more about “spending” than bathroom bills are about “safety.”

  12. No doubt the Man is an ass and just like good con artist he’ll want to distract us from what is happening on the Senate floor with an off the cuff, way off base policy change just to keep people distracted BUT while he might have gained a vote for the Trumpcare bill he lost others.

    And for me at least, as a trans person, I have seen nothing but an outpouring of love and support and likewise across mainstream media that makes me hopeful that this policy change will continue to backfire on the current administration and hopeful that this will blossom into something beautiful.

    Just Keep smiling and get even..

  13. I’m neither American nor trans so I probably can’t even imagine how betrayed, let down and unappreciated trans people currently serving in the U.S. military and veterans must feel right now. And how much they must currently worry about their future.

    I’ve been disgusted by Trumps ignorance and recklessness pretty much since before the election and I’m not sure why these news just hit me as hard as they did considering I’m not personally involved. But I’m fuming. It’s more than basic empathy and outrage. It’s the knowledge that his thoughtless, erratic and capricious decisions are actively hurting people pertaining to a big part of a community that is dear to me… and which has to put up with enough crap from different sides already when there isn’t a reckless lunatic sitting in the commander in chief’s chair.

  14. Watching my (trans) girlfriend’s face while she read this news was fucking heartbreaking. I need stronger words to articulate my loathing for this shit-filled dumpster fire of an administration

  15. When you start banning willing and able people from joining the military like trans people and women you then revert back to a draft system and if that happens the chicken shit republican party members that voted for this bullshit should be at the top of the list to be called. Then we’ll see if they’re not willing to let anyone else but them to serve.

  16. This shit just continues to get more and more terrifying.

    Every new slap in my communities face is another excuse for the rest of the people who hate us to feel like that hate is justified. It feels like every inch of ground we’ve managed to attain is crumbling away beneath us.

  17. Not to make this awful news any worse, but, as for what will happen to the 11,000+ trans people currently risking their lives for this country that won’t even protect them at home, if this passes life will probably go right back to what it was (and probably still has been for plenty of them) under DADT. That means closely guarding their truths and living in fear that they might be outed, then receive a general discharge instead of an honorable one, which would likely keep them from being eligible from any VA benefits that they deserve and will likely need.

    I only learned this today from a Twitter thread by Saundra Mitchell (@SaundraMitchcell), the facts of which I’m paraphrasing, but y’all should read.

    I either cannot believe it’s been only six months of this or cannot believe we’ve survived six months of this garbage.

  18. *Update Y’all*

    Because today doesn’t fucking suck enough, Sessions’ DOJ just argued in a major federal lawsuit that the CRA of 1964 does NOT protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination.

    Fuck this administration.

  19. I read elsewhere that this happened because conservative republicans were holding up a bill with increased defence spending and money for Trump’s wall because they wanted to stop the military paying for transgender medical care and when they couldn’t get their way vs. moderate republicans who thought they were being discriminatory they went to Trump and this is the result.

  20. I hope all the trans and other queer military personnel can leave the army with dignity and an honourable discharge. I mean what’s the point in ‘serving your country’ if your country doesn’t even fucking want your help?

    Also I’m aware I’m probably more anarchist-of-centre than a lot of people on here but it would be nice to see some critical analysis of the military and the language we use to talk about service personnel sometimes.

    • Kaput, “I mean what’s the point in ‘serving your country’ if your country doesn’t even fucking want your help?”

      As a trans woman, service member or not, I ask myself this every day. I spent 8 years in Japan, and consider it home. But my community here needs my help, and I’m the only teacher left with any experience or desire to change things. Still, sometimes just flying home again sounds so tempting, especially when all you ever get is hate.

  21. Weird the guy goes from pissing on his AG to banning trans from the military. God does that got to suck for Jeff Sessions. You go from being humiliated by your boss to now having to defend his decisions. We are going to have the most ineffective govt in years because nobody wants to have to deal with Trump. No one is going to take a job where the boss calls you out publicly cause he doesn’t like the fact you didn’t protect the family.

  22. This is a contemptible thing to do to people who are willing to face death and terror to support and serve their county. Perhaps it’ll make others in the services think twice about what they can expect too.

    The other aspect of this ruling is that it further reinforces the beliefs of those in the community who think that their President is giving them licence to persecute groups who they’re scared of.

    This is very frightening.

  23. As a trans woman, I know I should be angry, but I just can’t. If I let the hate in, it will kill me. If anything, I’m sad. I try to cry, but I think I’ve used up all my tears.

    The only thing I know how to do is love that much harder. In the last two days, two teenagers in our LGBT community died by suicide, another (and a dear friend) is in critical condition in the ICU. Right now she doesn’t need my rage or hate for those who hurt her. So I hold her hand, try to follow my breath, and do everything I can to smile.

    Nurturing our capacity to smile, love, and laugh in spite of hate – that is empowerment. It won’t those wanting to do harm to me or my loved ones. But, it will save me. And in that way, I hope my inner light can help others who are suffering.

    Lastly, I wanted to thank you all. This is one of the few places I can come and feel supported and welcome and loved. AutoStraddle is my home <3

  24. Not having enough money is a terrible excuse. I was in the Navy for five years and I remember seeing whole warehouses full of Humvees just sitting there useless because they were just phased out. I also recall quite a few weapons in the armory just sitting there because our battalion was not authorized to use them but we had them for…reasons?

    Then there’s the end of the fiscal year where my battalion had to order all the things! because if we didn’t we would end up decreasing our budget the next fiscal year.

    These are just a few things I saw while I was in but I would imagine if we took a closer look at where military funds are allocated we would, oh I don’t know, afford transgender medical care. Not that anyone else is questioned for needing medical care.

    Also, I would like to add that I have served alongside transgender people and do you know what happened? We worked together to get the job assigned to us accomplished. That’s it.

    Anyone who is willing and able to serve should be able to. No exceptions.

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