President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday via Twitter that the U.S. military would no longer “accept or allow” transgender people. The move is a reversal of a 2016 decision by President Barack Obama that allowed current transgender soldiers to serve openly and set a future deadline on allowing new transgender recruits. It appears as if that deadline is moved back indefinitely. Outspoken transgender icon Chelsea Manning panned the move.
“[B]iggest baddest most $$ military on earth cries about a few trans people but funds the F-35? sounds like cowardice #WeGotThis,” said Manning, a transgender woman and former intelligence analyst who was imprisoned for a classified intelligence leak.
Manning also responded to several derogatory tweets from other Twitter users.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” said Trump across three tweets Wednesday morning. “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. Thank you.”
While the Obama-era policy allowed transgender people to serve openly, there is not an empirical number of how many transgender individuals are currently serving. A 2016 study by think tank the Rand Corporation estimated that there are somewhere between 1,320–6,630 transgender people in active military service. The midrange number they stated was 2,450 transgender personnel out of around 1.3 million active service members. Other organizations such as the Human Rights Watch peg the number much higher at 15,000 service members.
Trump’s move comes amid a Capitol Hill debate on the Obama-era provision forcing the government to pay for medical treatment related to transgender issues. Congress is considering a $700 billion spending bill to fund the military, and several conservatives want language in the bill that would bar the Pentagon from paying for gender reassignment procedures.
The Rand study, however, estimated that the cost to the military to cover transgender health issues would be negligible.
“Using private health insurance claims data to estimate the cost of extending gender transition–related health care coverage to transgender personnel indicated that active-component health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures,” said the Rand study.
Others, including Former VicePresidentt Joe Biden, quickly criticized the move.