Transgender activists are calling Donald Trump's announced ban on trans people in the military "appalling," a "travesty," and more.
Trump announced today via Twitter that he would reinstate the ban, which was lifted by the Department of Defense under President Obama last year. Trans troops who were already serving in the closet have been able to do so openly since then, but now they will likely be discharged. The enrollment of new trans recruits, which was supposed to begin July 1 but was delayed for six months by the Trump administration, will now not happen at all.
"I feel like that it is a travesty that transgender individuals can no longer serve in the military," said Giovanni Santiago, an Ohio trans man and Air Force veteran who is attending the Equality Federation Leadership Conference today in Alexandria, Va. "It is in no way a reflection of their ability to serve but a blatant attack on their want for authenticity. So as not only a trans veteran myself -- but as someone who has worked hard for the trans veteran community -- I feel it is my duty to speak out and stand up for those who are not able."
Santiago, who has volunteered with Equality Ohio, was one of several trans vets whose statements were released by the Equality Federation. Another was Sheri Swokowski, a transgender retired Army infantry colonel and vice chair of Fair Wisconsin Education Fund.
"I'm extremely disappointed and surprised that the leader of our military would think that transgender service members are not capable or worthy of serving this nation, especially since we've been doing so since the beginning," she said. "We've always been in the ranks. Every step of the way, as we've opened the military up, it's exemplified how diversity adds the value of every organization. The largest employer in the nation, our military, should be an equal opportunity employer. There should be no place for discrimination in the military."
Another came from Jennifer Long, a longtime volunteer for New Jersey's Garden State Equality and a trans woman who served 30 years in the Army and was awarded a Bronze Star for her service in Afghanistan. "It's shocking and disappointing," she said. "Essentially the president is trying to fire 15,000 service members who serve in all kinds of capacities. Job security is one of the things many service members count on to provide for themselves and their families, so these statements will cause a lot of stress."
Equality Federation also released a quote from Joanne Carroll, president of Equality Pennsylvania's Education Fund, a transgender woman and retired Air Force master sergeant. "The president said he would be a best friend to our community, but day in and day out he has systematically done everything he can to disprove that," she said. "Just when transgender people were starting to feel recognized and safe enough to serve openly, he deflated that hope."
At the National LGBTQ Task Force, advocacy and action organizer Camden Hargrove likened the trans ban to racial segregation. "As a black transgender man who considered military service, Trump's tweets appalled and astonished me," Hargrove said in a press release. "There is no way for me to not draw parallels between racial segregation in the military and this discrimination against transgender service members. Trump's attempts today to divide the military is especially ironic considering that today is the anniversary of President Truman issuing his 1948 executive order ordering the racial desegregation of the military."
Victoria Rodriguez-Roldan, the Task Force's trans and gender-nonconforming justice project director, pointed out that the military is a major employer of trans people. "According to the U.S. trans survey, nearly one in five trans people in U.S. are currently serving or have served in the military," she said in the press release. "The U.S. military represents one of the few ways for low-income and disenfranchised people, including trans people and people of color, to gain career skills and financial security both now and in the future. No one should be forced to choose between who they are and being able to keep their career."
From the National Center for Lesbian Rights, legal director Shannon Price Minter commented, "In three tweets, Trump is purporting to fire 15,000 transgender service members bravely serving our country and to prevent other patriotic transgender persons from enlisting. While the impact of Trump's tweets is unclear, banning transgender service members would erode military readiness and contradict our country's values and ideals. Like every American, transgender service members should be judged by their qualifications and performance. President Trump's bizarre assault on these dedicated service members is appalling. Those who serve our country deserve our gratitude and respect. We call on the President to retract this harmful statement and to defer to the Pentagon's assessment that transgender people are fit to serve."
Transgender Law Center executive director Kris Hayashi issued a statement noting that this is one of Trump's many disastrous actions. "President Trump today tweeted highly inaccurate and offensive statements about transgender people, citing the 'disruption' our existence creates to try to set military policy," Hayashi said. "Sadly, this is just one in a series of his attacks on our community -- one of the most dangerous this week being his continued push to rob millions of people of health care, which would be a death sentence for many transgender people who rely on the Affordable Care Act for basic preventative care and lifesaving treatment.
"While it's far from clear that Trump can even set policy by tweet, we know that he uses his tweets to distract from very real, disastrous policy moving forward in Congress, like the attack on our health care. Combined with his assaults on immigrants, people of color, Muslims, and so many other members of the transgender community, Trump's actions today are just one more sign that he will do everything in his power to harm us. Transgender Law Center will not waver in our continued organizing and legal resistance to his agenda."
And National Center for Transgender Equality executive director Mara Keisling released this statement along with a call to action: "This is worse than 'don't ask, don't tell,' this is 'don't serve, don't serve.' This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand. The president wants to discard thousands of trained and skilled troops who are already serving honorably and done nothing but be honest about who they are. To turn away qualified recruits simply because of who they are is a shameful way to show our country's gratitude to the people who serve our country." She said NCTE, which advised the Defense Department on lifting the ban last year, will do whatever it can to counter Trump.