Following through on a series of Tweets last summer, President Trump signed orders Friday afternoon, removing almost every transgender soldier and sailor from the US military immediately, the Pentagon confirmed.
The directive, which was codified by Defense Secretary James Mathis, states, “transgender persons with a history of gender dysphoria are disqualified from military service”, and “Transgender persons who have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service“.
These orders affect nearly all of the estimated 15,000 transgender troops in the active-duty and reserve armed forces, and stipulate that only those transgender individuals “without a history of gender dysphoria, who are otherwise qualified for service, may serve, like all other service members, in their biological sex.”
This summary removal of transgender troops is the harshest measure taken against uniformed LGBT people, since President Obama ended “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” in the military in 2010. Although several top-level generals and admirals disagreed with Trump’s policy change, the White House was unmoved, even after several federal court decisions ruled the President’s action unconstitutional.
Pentagon brass, however, concurred with the Commander-In-Chief. “In my professional judgment,” General Mathis wrote, “these policies will place the Department of Defense in the strongest position to protect the American people.” The dismissals were to begin “without delay”, military officials said, upending the lives and careers of transgender officers and enlisted personnel scattered at duty stations and aboard warships all over the world.
“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,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said.
“Donald Trump and Mike Pence are pushing their extreme anti-transgender prejudices onto the military over the overwhelming objections of bipartisan officials, national security leaders and the American public. We will never stop fighting this discriminatory policy until every current and future transgender service member is treated equally and respected fully for their bravery.”
These troops are now returning home to uncertain futures in many cases, with discharge statuses that are likely to be “medical”, rather than “honorable”, according to veterans affairs experts.
Trump’s orders are a throwback to nearly 240 years of anti-LGBT military policy, in which soldiers and sailors were prosecuted, jailed, and dishonorably discharged for homosexuality. Transgender advocacy groups were said to be “exploring all possible options” to address the sudden ejection of thousands of these troops from military bases and ships, often with no home or family to return to.