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

In a series of tweets on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military because of the supposed extra cost and disruption.

By Rhonda FanningJuly 26, 2017 1:03 pm,

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.


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.