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In a startling and unexpected series of tweets this morning, Donald Trump announced that transgender Americans will no longer be allowed to serve in the U.S. military.
He used words like “disrupt” and “burden” to describe the thousands of brave and loyal service members who put their lives on the line to protect our country. Trump’s tweet seeks to undo an Obama-era policy that allowed trans people to serve openly in the military – a hard-fought victory that many people celebrated in 2016.
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The announcement came as a shock today to the Pentagon, which announced in June that it would pause the admission of trans recruits for six months while it studied the impact of transgender service members on military “readiness and lethality.”
Trump’s statement sidesteps that decision, though. It also looks like he made this controversial announcement without even consulting Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is currently out of office on vacation.
In his tweets, Trump claims that trans service members’ health care costs “burden” the military, and that their presence “disrupts” its function, but a study conducted last year by the RAND Corporation found this to be untrue.
Researchers reported that of about 1.3 million active-duty service members serving in 2016, about 2,450 were transgender (though estimates have reached as high as 16,000).
The researchers estimated that fewer than 130 of those trans service members seek transition-related care throughout the year that could disrupt their ability to deploy.
Researchers also found that the cost of paying for trans service members’ specific health care would increase the military’s spending by less than a percentage point. And inclusion, it turns out, can be good for business. Researchers found that militaries “with [trans-inclusive] policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.”
It’s completely unclear why Trump decided to make this announcement now – though some have speculated that it’s an attempt to distract people from either the Russia investigation or from the current health care drama.
And you better believe that criticism of Trump’s announcement has come from all sides today.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) noted, “On this very day in 1948, President Harry Truman signed the executive order desegregating the U.S. military. Sixty-nine years later, President Trump has chosen this day to unleash a vile and hateful agenda that will blindside thousands of patriotic Americans already serving with honor and bravery.”
And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.”
It’s unclear how and when Trump’s decision will even take effect, and it once again begs the question: does a tweet from the President of the United States count as official White House policy? This story is still developing. For now, trans advocates have vowed to fight Trump in federal court. We’ll be cheering them on.