UPDATED: Transgender service in the military — what's happening now?


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UPDATE: As the news spreads, everyone from LGBTQ organizations and organizations that deal with Military affairs (not affiliated with the Military itself) to affected transgender service members and religious organizations have begun releasing statements — whether positive or negative — in reaction to the news of Trump's announcement to ban transgender people from service. See below for full statements.

One Colorado
One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans and their families released the following statement from Daniel Ramos, Executive Director, on President Trump’s announcement that transgender people can no longer serve in the U.S. Military.

“President Trump just attacked thousands of patriotic transgender Americans who already serve in our military and who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe and free. The U.S. military is the largest employer of transgender people in the world, employing an estimated 15,000 transgender people today.

“This is yet another example of the Trump Administration attacking the most vulnerable among us instead of bringing Americans together to fix the problems that face all of us. Transgender people — like all Americans — should be judged for their qualifications, nothing more, nothing less. As we learned in repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing service members to serve with integrity strengthens our armed forces.

“Our veterans and military deserve better and we will fight against this vicious attack on dignity and equality. Transgender people are our friends, neighbors, and coworkers. They are veterans who have served with honor, and active duty service members who have sacrificed to protect our freedoms. When it comes to being able to serve their country, earn a living, having a place to live, or being served by a business, transgender people should be treated like anyone else and not be discriminated against.” 

Military Religious Freedom Foundation
“The Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) condemns in the most effusive and strongest manner possible the base, evil, vile, idiotic, bigoted and counterintuitive decision by Trump, the current 5-time draft dodging, “bone spur alleging" occupant of the White House, to ban all transgender human beings from being allowed to honorably serve their country in the United States armed forces. MRFF presently represents over 51,300 sailors, soldiers, marines and airmen in their brutal civil rights fight against fundamentalist Christian religious extremism and oppression in America’s military. Nearly 1,000 of MRFF’s clients are LGBTQ of whom 12 are transgender armed forces members who are either on active duty or in the reserves.
OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network
In his latest example of pseudo-policy-by-twitter, Donald Trump has shown blatant disregard for transgender service members who have been serving openly since October 2016. The disruptive burden to the military comes from indecision in a White House which itself is not focused on victory if it’s targeting service members. The readiness, effectiveness, and lethality of the Armed Services comes from the commitment of our troops – not the vagaries and bigotry of exclusionary policies.

We are committed to transgender service members. We are going to fight for them as hard as they are fighting for the country. And we’re going to start by taking the fight to Donald Trump in the Federal Court.
Not everyone has come out in opposition to the policy. The Liberty Counsel, which calls itself "an international nonprofit, litigation, education, and policy organization dedicated to advancing religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and the family," said the following:

"I applaud President Trump for making America safe again," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "The military is a lethal weapon designed to protect America and our allies. It is not a social club, a social experimentation petri dish, or ClubMed. The focus should be military readiness and unit cohesion. The President has kept his promise to return to military priorities by not continuing the 'transgender' policy that undermines unit cohesion, preparedness, and morale. The duty of military officers is to appropriately lead and prepare their personnel to serve and protect, and they cannot do that when there is confusion, dysfunction, and safety issues within the barracks," said Staver.

———————UPDATED POST 9:58 A.M. WEDNESDAY, JULY 26, 2017———————

UPDATE: Once again, President Trump has updated the nation on national policy via a series of tweets. In this case, regarding the controversial issue of transgender people serving in the U.S. Military.

Which means all the deliberation of past months means little — at least until Jan. 1, 2018, by which time: "The services will review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and lethality of our forces," according to Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Dana White, as reported by NPR.

It is not yet clear what will happen to the estimated 3,960 transgender service members (active component and Selected Reserve), but the words "in any capacity" offer little hope to those currently serving.

LGBTQ rights groups such as the Human Rights Campaign have already spoken out against the decision, which was announced on the 69th anniversary of the racial desegregation of the Military. HRC President Chad Griffin said: “This heinous and disgusting action endangers the lives of American service members, undermines military readiness and makes our country less safe. It is also the latest effort by Trump and Mike Pence to undo our progress and drag LGBTQ people back into the closet by using our lives as political pawns.”

Trump has referred to himself as a “real friend” of the LGBTQ community, but this is not the first time he has proven otherwise. One might expect the hits will keep on coming.

Editor's note: the above entry was edited to include the anniversary of racial desegregation.

———————UPDATED POST 5:36 P.M. THURSDAY, JULY 13, 2017———————

UPDATE: It was a close call, but the House voted 209 to 214 to deny Rep. Vicky Hartzler's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would have prevented Transgender service members from accessing transition-related healthcare with military money.

The Human Rights Campaign said in a press release: "Today's vote sends a resounding message of support for our military families and transgender military personnel serving around the globe."

However, given the narrow margin of the vote, it is clear there is still much work to be done.

———————ORIGINAL POST 4:20 P.M. WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2017———————

Once again, the rights of transgender people have entered the public conversation. Rather than focusing on bathrooms — at the moment — this particular controversy stems from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ six-month stay on the induction of openly transgender recruits. As it stands, transgender people who are already in the military may serve, but openly transgender recruits are barred from enlisting. This was supposed to change on July 1, but military service chiefs from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps reportedly requested more time.

In May, graduating transgender Air Force Academy and West Point cadets were denied their commissions due to this policy. Now that the stay has gone into effect, certain lawmakers are questioning the inclusion of any transgender service members, some going as far as to advocate for rolling back the 2016 policy that allowed trans people to serve openly in the first place. Objections cite everything from affecting morale (i.e. upsetting straight, cisgender members of the military), affecting readiness and costing a pretty military penny.

Indy columnist Heidi Beedle addressed the first two points in this week’s Queer & There, but on the financial side: An extensive study from the RAND Corporation explains that the cost of providing transition-related medical care to the small number of trans members of the military who seek such health care is “relatively low." Active-component health care costs would increase only between 2.4 million and 8.4 million per year. Given that the military budget for fiscal year 2018 (Oct. 1, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018) is more than 824 billion, that means that trans-related health care would likely cost the military a fraction of a percent of their total assets.

This study seems to have had no effect on the opinions of Rep. Vicky Hartzler and the other members of the Republican party who oppose transgender service. Hartzler recently offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to once again ban transgender people from serving in the military and, moreover, to honorably discharge any transgender troops currently serving.

Though Hartzler withdrew that amendment, she came back with a vengeance, and a new amendment, on Friday — this one to bar any military funding from going toward medical care related to gender transition. That would include life-changing (and many would argue, life-saving) hormone therapy and gender reassignment treatment.

All proposed amendments to the NDAA must go through the rules committee before reaching the House for a vote. We will update this blog when we hear more.

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