President Trump’s announcement via Twitter of a ban on transgender people serving in the military generated a flurry of questions on Wednesday, as well as challenges and rebukes from medical associations and LGBT advocacy organizations.
President Donald Trump’s statement on Twitter Wednesday that the U.S. government “will not accept or allow” transgender people to serve in the U.S. military caught official Washington off-guard on Wednesday, including those in the military sphere. And his rationale for the ban drew an immediate challenge from associations with expertise in the subject.
“Our 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,” the president tweeted.
The medical community took issue with that claim. In a statement, American Medical Association President David O. Barbe, M.D., said the president had drastically overstated the cost of providing medical care to transgender service members, noting that a Rand Corporation study had found that such costs were so small as to amount to “a rounding error in the defense budget.”
“There is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from military service,” Barbe said. “Transgender individuals are serving their country with honor, and they should be allowed to continue doing so.”
The American Psychological Association, also citing the Rand report, said that research doesn’t support the claim that transgender service members create a “distraction” within military units.
“We’ve seen no scientific evidence that allowing transgender people to serve in the armed forces has had an adverse impact on our military readiness or unit cohesion,” APA President Antonio E. Puente, Ph.D., said in a statement.
Wendy Armstrong, M.D., chair of the HIV Medical Association, added that the policy could discourage transgender people from getting necessary medical care. “Stigma and discrimination too frequently drive transgender persons away from engaging in healthcare and too often contribute to late diagnoses, poor outcomes, and often higher healthcare costs for a number of health conditions, including HIV infection,” Armstrong said in a HIVMA statement.
LGBT Military Groups: “The Tweet Obviously Is Not Policy”
LGBT advocacy groups associated with the military were quick to denounce the president’s announcement.
Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, called the comments “a horrifying vicious attack” and said the statement threatened the safety of active-duty military members.
“Transgender service members are risking their lives around the world, and President Trump literally just put a target on their backs, threatening to ruin their careers and kick them out of the military,” Broadway-Mack said in a news release. “This is unconscionable, and we are beyond outraged.”
The Transgender American Veterans Association, meanwhile, said said it was “deeply disappointed by President Trump’s heartless tweet.” Evan Young, the retired U.S. Army major who serves as TAVA’s president, said the group would work with allied organizations “to create a united front” against any executive action.
“As transgender American veterans, who have proudly and patriotically volunteered to serve in our nation’s armed forces, we feel that assault doubly on our identity, on who we are,” Young said in a statement. “Our brothers, sisters, family, and allies were targeted and our freedom and resolve tested. As veterans, we are keenly aware of that price for freedom, and I personally call on each and everyone to step up their situational awareness, administer self-care, and be safe out there.”
In an interview with Bloomberg, Young noted that the tweet “obviously is not policy. It is the president tweeting whatever he feels like he wants to tweet.”
On Thursday, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff stated in a memo to military leaders that they will not implement the ban without a formal executive order from the president, Reuters’ Pentagon correspondent reported on Twitter.