Trump to reinstate military ban on transgender people

President Donald Trump speaks to boys and girls with the American Legion’s youth programs, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, July 26, 2017. Trump’s declaration that transgender individuals would be barred from military service was met with surprise at the Pentagon, outrage from advocacy groups and praise from social conservatives on Wednesday. (Justin Gilliland/The New York Times)

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President Donald Trump speaks to boys and girls with the American Legion’s youth programs, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, July 26, 2017. Trump’s declaration that transgender individuals would be barred from military service was met with surprise at the Pentagon, outrage from advocacy groups and praise from social conservatives on Wednesday. (Justin Gilliland/The New York Times)

Local transgender serviceman says it’s a step back

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he wants transgender people barred from serving in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” citing “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”

Trump’s announcement on Twitter would reverse the effort under President Barack Obama to open the armed services to transgender people. He did not say what would happen to transgender troops already in the military.

The president tweeted that he was making his announcement after consulting with “generals and military experts,” but he did not name any. He said the military “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

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Gage A. Gatlyn, 39, of Dayton, who served in the Army Reserve as a transgender male and celebrated Obama’s decision to lift the military transgender ban last year, said Wednesday that Trump’s announcement was “a huge step back.”

“It’s really appalling and it’s sad all at the same time because I know they’re worried about all these billions of dollars that they’re not going to spend on transgender surgeries, but they’re turning away perfectly healthy candidates that could serve our military and serve our country,” he said.

Gatlyn, who served in both the Navy and Army, said he joined the military as a female before transitioning to a male in his last stint with the Army Reserve. He left the military in 2005.

“I did the (physical fitness) tests by the male standards, I kept my hair cut to the male standards and I lived as a male and I had no problems whatsoever from anybody in my (Army) company,” said Gatlyn, who was concerned about future military service of transgender service members in uniform today.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders offered little clarity about the policy at a press briefing. Asked what will happen to transgender troops currently serving, she said the Department of Defense and the White House will work together “as implementation takes place and is done so lawfully.”

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She did not provide a timeline.

Sanders described the move as a “military decision.” She said Trump was concerned the current policy is “expensive and disruptive” and “erodes military readiness and military cohesion.” She said the secretary of defense was notified yesterday after Trump made the decision.

Randy S. Phillips, president of the Dayton LGBT Center, criticized Trump’s announcement.

“We’re extremely sadden and taken aback by this,” he said. “It’s a huge slap in the face to each of those people that have signed up to serve our country openly and honestly. It’s a very sad state of affairs.”

Some conservative organizations hailed the decision.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins applauded Trump for “keeping his promise to return to military priorities — and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military.”

Phone and email messages seeking comment on Trump’s decision were left Wednesday with a spokeswoman in the office of U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton. The congressman, who has Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in his district, is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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At the Pentagon, members of the staff of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appeared to have been caught unaware by Trump’s tweets. A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, referred questions to the White House.

Davis said the Pentagon is working with the White House to “address” what he called “the new guidance” from the president. He said the Pentagon will provide revised guidance to Defense Department officials “in the near future.”

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base released a similar statement Wednesday that referred additional questions to the White House. Wright-Patterson spokeswoman Marie Vanover indicated she did not have information on how many transgender airmen at the base might be impacted by the decision.

Members of Congress seemed caught by surprise. Asked if he was notified in advance about the announcement, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said, “No. I read about it when you reported it.”

Transgender service members have been able to serve openly in the military since last year, when former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban. Since last Oct. 1, they have been able to receive medical care and start formally changing their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system.

Carter also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military. Mattis announced earlier this month that he was giving military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services would affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force.

Already, there are as many as 250 service members in the process of transitioning to their preferred genders or who have been approved to formally change gender within the Pentagon’s personnel system, according to several defense officials.

The Pentagon has refused to release any data on the number of transgender troops currently serving. A Rand Corp. study last year estimated about 2,450 transgender people in active military, out of about 1.3 million troops.

On cost, the study said only a subset would seek gender transition related treatment, estimating that health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, or a 0.04 percent to 0.13 percent increase in spending on active military.

The issue of transgender troops was debated recently in the GOP-led House, which narrowly rejected a measure that would have forbidden the Pentagon from paying for gender transition surgeries and hormone therapy. Supporters saw the measure as an opportunity to roll back what they called Obama’s social engineering of the armed forces. But Democrats criticized the proposal as bigoted and unconstitutional, and they won enough Republican support to block it.

Trump’s decision drew swift outrage from LGBT groups and from lawmakers from both parties.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, a double amputee veteran of the Iraq War, said that when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down, she didn’t care “if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender or anything else. All that mattered was they didn’t leave me behind.”

Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the tweet was “another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.”

Stacy D. Sandberg, who has served as the Dayton PFLAG transgender committee chairperson, said in an email Trump’s action was “strictly political in an attempt to not (lose) more of the Republican base. Throwing brave and honorable service members under the campaign bus is reprehensible.

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