UPDATE: Several transgender servicemembers have contacted the ACLU and other civil rights organizations such as OutServe and Lambda Legal with the intention of mounting a lawsuit against Trump's policy.
TRUMPINGTON, D.C.—Transgenders are the single most discriminated-against minority in the country today, and in a series of tweets published earlier this morning, U.S. Pr*sident Donald Trump announced that the U.S. government will now officially discriminate against transgendered individuals who are currently serving or who wish to serve in the U.S. military. The announcement was made on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman's executive order that that same U.S. military stop discriminating against persons of color and begin to fully integrate black Americans into all military units.
"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," Trump wrote. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
But Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) wasn't having any of it.
"I know because I served on active duty," Lieu said. "The military doesn't care what your sexual orientation or identity is, or who you love. It cares about whether you can shoot straight and complete the mission. The president's discriminatory decision harms our military readiness for our volunteer-based military. Thousands of transgender Americans are already in the military. Why? Because they are qualified, patriotic and willing to die for their country. There is zero evidence a transgender sniper would be any less qualified than a gay sniper or a straight sniper. Today is a sad day for America."
Also coming out (no pun intended) on Twitter against the new policy were Hollywood personalities George Takei, Judd Apatow, Lena Dunham, Seth Rogen, James Corden, Ava duVernay, Paul Feig, Debra Messing, Samantha Bee, Mia Farrow, Rob Reiner, Alan Cumming, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Demi Lovato, Sandra Bernhard, Laverne Cox, Ellen DeGeneres, Miley Cyrus... and Caitlyn Jenner.
Trump's far-right religious supporters have universally condemned the fact that former President Obama sanctioned transgenders already serving in the military to be allowed to serve openly, and had set July 1 as the date on which openly transgendered individuals could enlist in the service, but Defense Secretary Jim "Mad Dog" Mattis recently delayed that "open enlistment" for six months—but now it appears that not only will transgenders not be able to join up after all, but there is a likelihood that those trans people already serving will be discharged before their enlistments are up. It is also not known whether those discharges will be "honorable" or something else.
Trump's statement about the military being "burdened with the tremendous medical costs" appears to be the brainchild of Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-Missouri), who had offered and then withdrawn an amendment to block transgender troops during a House Armed Services committee meeting in late June—but said that she might revive the amendment depending on what the Defense Department (read: Secretary Mattis) had to say on the issue.
"The Obama transgender policy, which was implemented without input from members of Congress, is ill-conceived and contrary to our goals of increasing troop readiness and investing defense dollars into addressing budget shortfalls of the past," Hartzler said in a statement. "By recruiting and allowing transgender individuals to serve in our military we are subjecting taxpayers to high medical costs including up to $130,000 per transition surgery, lifetime hormone treatments, and additional surgeries to address the high percentage of individuals who experience complications."
However, science puts the lie to Hartzler's cost claims. In a study conducted by the RAND Corporation last year, researchers found that there are only approximately 2,450 transgendered servicepeople currently serving in the military, with a total enlistment of 1.3 million non-TGs currently on active duty, and that "Only a subset will seek gender transition–related treatment." Moreover, they estimated that "the cost of extending gender transition–related health care coverage to transgender personnel ... would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures." Additionally, they found that "Commanders noted that the policies [of transgender integration] had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force" with "little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness."
Oh, yeah; and then there's this little ditty: According to the Military Times, data from the Defense Health Agency indicate the U.S. Department of Defense spent $41.6 million on Viagra and $84.24 million total on drugs for erectile dysfunction in 2014.
As expected, the usual right-wing hate groups were all in favor of the ban.
"Liberty Counsel has been involved in this military issue by meeting with White House officials and others about the need to reverse the Obama policy," according to an email sent to supporters this morning by the conservative legal organization. "Last Friday, Jonathan Alexandre, Director of Public Policy at Liberty Counsel, met with White House officials and discussed this issue, stressing the importance of the President's power to direct his generals to prioritize unit cohesion and military readiness rather than sacrificing them to the demands of the transgender lobby...
"I applaud President Trump for making America safe again," said Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. "The military is a lethal weapon designed to protect America and our allies. It is not a social club, a social experimentation petri dish, or ClubMed. The focus should be military readiness and unit cohesion. The President has kept his promise to return to military priorities by not continuing the 'transgender' policy that undermines unit cohesion, preparedness, and morale. The duty of military officers is to appropriately lead and prepare their personnel to serve and protect, and they cannot do that when there is confusion, dysfunction, and safety issues within the barracks," said Staver. [All emphasis in original]
Not to be left out, the ultra-conservative Family Research Council also chimed in: "I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities—and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military," claimed FRC President Tony Perkins, who called the move "fearless" and "gutsy." "The military can now focus its efforts on preparing to fight and win wars rather than being used to advance the Obama social agenda... The last thing we should be doing is diverting billions of dollars from mission-critical training to something as controversial as gender reassignment surgery. However, the cost to readiness, recruitment, retention, morale and cohesion would have been even greater under the Obama policy. As our nation faces serious national security threats, our troops shouldn't be forced to endure hours of transgender 'sensitivity' classes and politically-correct distractions like this one."
And what would right-wing assholishness be without Don Wildmon's bigoted organization?: "The American Family Association has been highly critical of the transgender military policy of President Obama’s administration. AFA applauds President Trump for his courageous decision to end the usage of our military for social engineering and political correctness. American families deserve a military that is focused solely on readiness and national defense."
The National Center for Transgender Equality had a somewhat different view: "This is simple bigotry. This attack has nothing to do with military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand. NCTE is telling the President that using the lives, the careers, and the service of transgender troops to attempt to score political points is not OK," wrote Mara Keisling, NCTE Executive Director. "This is worse than 'don’t ask, don’t tell,' this is 'don't serve, don't serve.' And 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 and protect our country." [Emphasis in original]
Several transgender actresses in the adult industry have also had experiences in the military, almost universally before they officially transitioned, though many were aware that their feelings about their own gender did not line up with what the military expected of them.
"I joined the Army when I was in my early 20s, well before I knew much about being trans, or even what being trans meant (I didn't transition until I was 50)," said TG actress Becca Benz in a statement to AVN. "I was trying to figure out what to do with my life and the military seemed like a good option. It was a good experience and I gained a lot of maturity and discipline, and met my future wife. But my dysphoria was difficult to manage at times, to the point where I'd shave my legs, even with the risk of getting caught and outed, and potentially discharged.
"I've always been very proud to have served my country; it was an honor," she added. "But after reading that Trump reinstated the ban, I felt like it was a slap in the face. Trans people have a higher rate of service than cis people and we have served honorably and proudly. Trans people like Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, and Shane Ortega, the first trans person to serve openly, have brought much needed positive attention to trans veterans and the issues we face, along with the fact that being trans does not make us any less of a soldier or less competent. So yes, I feel outraged at the betrayal of my country, and also that so many trans people voted for Trump."
Becca also devoted her column on Grooby.com to this issue.
Natalie Chen, who joined the military reserves right out of high school, after 9/11 and while the war in Afghanistan was in full swing, had a similar experience.
"This was really something I wanted to be a part of; I felt that I really wanted to go and experience and serve these people," Chen told AVN. "And also my grandfather was a Navy corpsman in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and I felt this would be a good way to connect with him and be part of that legacy. I did not know I was trans when I joined, and I joined the reserves because I was worried about my eyesight at the time, and I had to trick my mom into letting me get medical clearance first, which worked out. I went on deployment, and ended up coming back and going to school since I was in the reserves, and then had another deployment and came back and went to college as an undergrad in 2010. It was there that I figured out I was trans, since I was grappling with depression and trying to figure out my identity, and I started looking into transitioning at that time, but I stopped it because I thought, 'If I transition, I have to get out of the military,' and I wanted to stay in more than anything; I really, really enjoyed it, and I knew the war was still going on, we had deployments slated for Afghanistan, so I volunteered for another deployment. But while I was on leave, I realized that this transgender 'dysphoria' was not going away, though I thought I could ignore it and stay in the military, but I realized it wasn't going away, it would get worse, and I'd have to deal with it. But when the military canceled a scheduled deployment in 2012, I got out along with a lot of friends, and that's when I started going through my transition process."
Chen also has a unique if quite logical reaction to Trump's announcement.
"I feel like it's not coming from any real authentic concern for military efficiency," she said, "and it's ironic because a lot of the complaints are that, 'Oh, the military shouldn't be catering to a special group's wants or needs,' but basically, this whole ban is catering to a group that is transphobic and is afraid of trans people and is paranoid that they're going to go and exploit the military when they aren't; trans people just want to serve; they just happen to be trans. They aren't there to get any special benefits; they just want to serve the same as everyone else, so he's just catering to another group. They all say the military shouldn't be used as a political tool. Well, he's using it as a political tool."
Actress Isabella Sorrenti, on the other hand, was well aware of her trans feelings early on, though she was unsure how to cope with them, until...
"Reality bit me hard and I soon realized I needed to do something to help suppress my feelings and desires," she told AVN. "I wanted help so badly and didn’t know who to reach out to. I was scared coming from a small hick town in the middle of nowhere. I had a friend reach out to me regarding the military and I thought, what the heck, why not? ... I thought to myself that this would be the perfect opportunity to become someone macho and surround myself with a bunch of testosterone-filled meatheads. This was going to be the answer to my confusion and feelings. This was going to help suppress it and hopefully rid me of the pain I had felt inside for many years. So, I signed the paperwork, took the official test and within a short time after that was on a plane to San Diego, California...
"When I was in my MOS (Military Occupational School) I’d get rides off base with my fellow Marines," she continued. "I’d always go and fool around with trans women. I just wanted to get to know them better and determine if this is what I needed to do? I started to learn about Hormone Replacement Therapy and everything needed to transition but held off on it for a while. I was still afraid and stuck in a shell that needed to be broken. I couldn’t breathe. It was third year in the field, I was attached to an artillery unit, and these feelings grew rapidly by the day. I remember hanging out with one of the Marines from my unit and drinking some beer in his backyard around a fire. Liquid courage helped me get my feelings out but at a cost. I told him that I had been going to clinics and speaking to psychologists about transitioning. At first he didn’t know what I was talking about. The further we got into the conversation the more understanding he became. His exact words were, 'Well, what are you waiting for? Transition. Do what you gotta do to be happy in this life because if you don’t do anything about it now, you’ll regret it later when you’re old and wrinkly.'"
But not everyone in the service was that understanding: "Within the next few days I was called into the office of my Communications Chief and he started questioning me and asking he heard rumors about me being a 'faggot' and wanting to dress up like a drag queen. I wanted to deny my feelings but the cat was already out of the bag. I said, 'Fuck it. I’ve come this far. Yes, it's all true, Sergeant. I want to be a woman so I can be more comfortable with myself.' Shit hit the fan after that. ... They went ahead and told me I was an 'Unsatisfactory Participant of the Marine Corps' and 'Mentally Unstable' so I was discharged with an Other Than Honorable Discharge. It’s not a good thing but it was the first step towards becoming who I am today."
Sorrentini also had a few choice words she'd like to deliver to the Commander-In-Chief: "Transgender military personnel have more bravery than you'll ever have, Mr. Five-Time-Draft-Dodger, so don't try and justify your actions with useless information that is inaccurate. As long as people are willing to serve and risk dying for this country, who cares what's between their legs? We need to embrace, NOT ban. The military is a job. Which means it is an unlawful employment practice to discriminate against any person because of that person's age, race, gender, national origin, religion, physical or mental disability, medical condition, pregnancy, marital status or sexual orientation. This is a law, so how is it that YOU, Mr. President, are able to break it when YOU are supposed to be upholding our laws? I get that the people wanted someone different in the White House but come on??? This was the best choice? Expect your rating to go down even more after this debacle. As a former Marine myself I'm ashamed of this country and a lot of the people who uphold these archaic values. There is no progression whatsoever. This isn't the end of this because we will stand up, we will fight and we will be victorious in the end. You'll see."
One can only hope!
Pictured, clockwise from upper left: Isabella Sorrenti, Becca Benz and Natalie Chen.