Trump scraps blanket transgender military ban, major restrictions remain

On Friday evening, his favorite time to drop abominable news, Donald Trump issued a new memorandum that would ban nearly all transgender people from serving in the US military, including the Coast Guard.

The new directive comes after an adopted recommendation from defence secretary Jim Mattis, who said '"transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition" can not serve in the military.

There is also an exception for people now in the military who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria between the implementation of an Obama-era policy allowing transgender people to serve and the start of the new Trump administration policy.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a memo to the president in February there are "substantial risks" associated with allowing individual with gender dysphoria to serve, noting that allowing them to be exempt from the same standards other service members are held to, to include mental health standards, "could undermine readiness [and] disrupt unit cohesion", Fox News reported.

"The Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, with respect to the US Coast Guard, may exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals", the memorandum said. Almost two-thirds (64%) of the public favor allowing transgender people to serve, while 30% oppose.

The US military responded to Trump's original order by allowing those serving to stay in the military and began allowing transgender individuals to enlist beginning on January 1.

The order to reverse President Obama's policy was blocked by federal judges who said it was probably unconstitutional. Dave Eastburn, a Pentagon spokesman, has told CNN. The study concluded that allowing transgender troops to serve would have "minimal impact on readiness and health care costs".

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Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland, who was featured in a 2015 documentary about transgender troops, posted a March 23 Facebook message saying that he will continue to serve as long as he can.

"There is simply no way to spin it, the Trump-Pence Administration is going all in on its discriminatory, unconstitutional and despicable ban on transgender troops", Chad Griffin, the Human Rights Council president, said in a statement on Friday. Since then, at least one transgender service member underwent sex reassignment surgery.

The decision to ban Americans who might willingly put their lives on the line to protect the country comes as the military struggles to meet its recruiting goals, forcing it to accept recruits with lower qualifications.

Civil rights advocates said while some transgender service members might be permitted to continue to serve under the announced policy, the exceptions seemed unclear and the policy was likely to foster a hostile climate for those who seek to continue to serve.

However, just because this ban might hold up a little better in court, that doesn't mean it's any less transphobic-and that doesn't mean Trump is any less obviously using an official diagnosis of gender dysphoria as a smokescreen to effectively ban all trans people.

In a statement, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney Peter Renn said administration's new plan "solves nothing".

  • Sonia Alvarado