July 26. The president sent three tweets on his Donald J. Trump Twitter account. “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. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…. ….victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.
Background: The Obama administration had established the policy for transgender individuals to serve openly in the military in 2016 after a year of study and review. The Pentagon commissioned the Rand Corporation to study possible effects of transgender service openly in the military. They found. “it would have minimal impact on unit cohesion and readiness . And health care costs would increase an “infinitesimal 0.04-0.13 percent. There are between 2,000 to 11,000 active- duty transgender troops serving among the 1.3 million active-duty military.
In June, 2017, Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, told president Trump he and military leaders would consider the 2016 policy for incoming transgender recruits over the next six months. Mattis and the Pentagon leaders appeared to have accepted that those already serving in the military would remain. Mattis was on vacation when Trump sent his three tweets. He and the Pentagon had not been told in advance of Trump’s decision. It was leaked that Mattis “was appalled” that active transgender troops, many overseas, learned from “tweets that they were suddenly no longer welcome.”
President Trump and Republican lawmakers in Congress had been pressured by Tony Perkins , the president of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian conservative group that had backed Trump during the campaign. Perkins lobbied Trump and the lawmakers to oppose health costs for transgender military members. The Coucil published daily prayers; “Grant repentance to President Trump and Secretary Mattis for even considering to keep this wicked policy in place.”
Another important issue for the president was the security spending measure that had a $1.6 billion price tag for The Wall, one of his most important promises during the campaign. He was concerned transgender medical costs would be a distraction.
Reactions to the Transgender Ban: If Trump sent his tweets to change the subject from the Russia investigation, he was very successful. His tweets were the story of the day, resulting in coverage by all cable TV stations and major newspapers across the county and the world. Typical headline: “Trump Surprises Military With a Transgender Ban. (New York Times.) Trump drew condemnation from Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill. Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and Chairman of the Foreign Services Committee, said, “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train and deploy to leave the military —regardless of their gender identity.” He added that Mr. Trump’s move was “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made on Twitter.” Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, and the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, noted the irony of the day of the announcement. He said, “President Trump is choosing to retreat in the march toward equality.” “He sent the ban on the anniversary of President Harry Truman’s order to desegregate the United States Military in l947.” Truman had served in the Army as a decorated officer in World War I. Trump with multiple deferments for a spur on his heel, never served in the U.S. military.
Civil rights protesters marched in New York City carrying RESIST signs in Times Square. Panels on TV talk shows debated whether Trump had betrayed his campaign speeches when he called himself an ally of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at his confirmation hearing in late July, “ I am an advocate of every qualified person who can meet the physical standards to serve in our uniformed services to do so.” OutServe, a non-profit group that represents, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the military vowed to sue immediately after they heard Trump’s tweets. The executive director of OutServe, Matthew Thorn, said in an interview, “We have transgender individuals who serve in elite SEAL teams, who are working in a time of war to defend our country, and now you’re going to kick them out?”
Epilogue: On Thursday, July 27, General Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued a letter to the military service chiefs. He said that the policy on who is allowed to serve would not change until the White House sends the Defense Department new rules and the secretary of defense issues new guidelines. “In the meantime, we will continue to treat all our personnel with respect.”
…………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson