The Trump administration’s ban on transgender people serving openly in the military is set to start on April 12, unless the president has a change of heart. The only thing left is the wait, preparation and anxiety among service members who will be affected.
On March 26, a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court lifted the last of four injunctions that had stopped the ban.
Two days later, the House of Representatives passed a nonbinding resolution formally condemning the Trump administration’s transgender military ban. The vote was 238-185. Every Democrat backed the measure, but only five Republicans did. Bucks County Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick was among them.
“Serving and protecting our nation should be open to all who are physically, psychologically and medically fit to serve,” Rep. Fitzpatrick said. “Our nation must cherish all who are willing to put their lives on the line to preserve and protect our freedoms, and keep our families safe.”
Starting April 12, any service member who enlists or who has not already come out as transgender would have to serve in the gender they were assigned at birth.
A transgender person who has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria won’t be allowed to serve unless a doctor certifies they have been stable in their biological sex for three years, and they have not transitioned.
Troops diagnosed with gender dysphoria after they join the military can be discharged if they are “unable or unwilling to adhere to all applicable standards, including the standards associated with their biological sex,” according to a Pentagon memo.
That’s compared to the former “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, but not transgender people.
But currently serving troops who already came out will be grandfathered in, so they can continue serving openly and receiving medical care.
“We are concerned by the serious harms that the imminent enforcement of the ban is already causing, both to the military and to transgender service members, many of whom are now scrambling to come out and initiate a gender transition before the April 12 deadline in order to be included in the so-called ‘grandfather’ provision,” read a joint statement by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. “The government’s plan is already wreaking havoc in the lives of dedicated transgender troops who must now face the grim choice of suppressing their identity or leaving military service, to the detriment of their fellow service members and national security.”
The groups say nearly 50 former military leaders and national security officials conclusively decided there is no basis for the ban and have criticized it. Those people include two former secretaries of defense, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and a former director of the National Security Agency.
It was only on June 30, 2016, President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter started letting transgender people serve in the military. That was based on a two-year review that determined there was no valid reason to exclude qualified personnel simply because they are transgender.
But less than 13 months later, President Donald Trump tweeted “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”
Lawsuits were filed and in March 2018, the President accepted the plan that was recommended by his then-defense secretary, James Mattis.
The Pentagon verified numbers first reported by USA Today that since 2016, the U.S. military has spent nearly $8 million for transition-related care for 1,500 transgender troops. That includes 161 surgical procedures. The Pentagon’s annual budget is nearly $600 billion.
The Pentagon argues the new policy is not a ban since currently serving transgender troops can continue to do so, and other transgender people will be allowed to serve in their biological sex.