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The White House is expected to issue official guidance to military leaders in the next few days on how to implement President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender individuals serving in the Armed Forces.
Trump previously announced the ban via Twitter, claiming that allowing transgender troops to serve openly hurts military readiness and unit morale, and costs too much money to cover any transition-related care they may receive.
According to The Wall Street Journal, sources familiar with the guidance say it will direct the Pentagon to deny admittance to out transgender individuals and will prohibit transgender troops from receiving insurance coverage for transition-related health care, even if it’s deemed medically necessary.
Military officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford, Jr., have not expressed opposition to the presence of transgender troops and have previously said they will not take any official actions to sever transgender service members until they receive clearer guidance on how to implement such a change.
The guidance will also reportedly allow Mattis a six-month window during which he will be expected to set forth his own criteria determining whether actively serving transgender troops should be forcibly discharged, based on their ability to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
That means that those receiving or recovering from certain medical treatments or surgeries to treat their gender dysphoria, which might force them to take time off duty or may slow them down, are more than likely to be separated from their units.
Following Trump’s initial announcement three weeks ago, LGBTQ advocates and allies began circulating a Change.org petition calling on the president and the Department of Defense to allow transgender people to serve openly in the U.S. military.
The petition is also being sent to several congressional leaders in the House and Senate. Thus far, it has received about 226,000 signatures.
LGBTQ advocates have consistently pointed to studies showing that the cost of replacing discharged transgender service members may significantly outweigh any costs that go to cover transition-related medical treatments, with one report estimating that it would likely cost $960 million to recruit and train new service members to replace those who were forcibly discharged.
A number of retired military leaders have also stated that they believe that any ban on transgender individuals will actually hurt military readiness, despite the president’s claims to the contrary.
Conversely, the New England Journal of Medicine RAND Corporation estimates that the amount the U.S. military would spend on transition-related care for transgender service members would be dwarfed by the total that the U.S. military spends on health care expenses.
The Washington Post has even reported that the military currently spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transition-related care for transgender service members.
“Despite the overwhelming bipartisan condemnation of his reckless tweets, President Trump is still pushing forward with his vicious assault on transgender service members,” Ashley Broadway-Mack, the president of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement. “His foolhardy assertion that transgender service members are not able to deploy is simply not rooted in fact.
“Transgender service members are just as deployable as any other service member,” Broadway-Mack continued. “These brave men and women are already risking their lives for this country around the world. They have earned their right to appropriate medical care, and President Trump’s attempt to rip that away is beyond unconscionable.”
The LGBTQ advocacy organization OutServe-SLDN said in a statement that it would be working with Lambda Legal to file a lawsuit challenging the White House’s push for a ban. Already, five transgender soldiers working with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders have filed a separate lawsuit challenging the proposed ban and asking for an injunction to stop it from being carried out.
“The President’s order to remove transgender service members from the United States Armed Forces is nothing less than a purge,” OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Matt Thorn said in a press release calling Trump administration’s actions “capricious,” “arbitrary,” and “callous.”
“He is implementing this purge based on bigotry, motivated by agents of an ideology that has no concern for national defense, and in blatant disregard of the experience of career officers who spent more than a year developing and implementing the current policy.
“We condemn the actions of the White House in initiating this purge,” Thorn continued. “We condemn the disregard that the President has shown to transgender men and women who wear the uniform….And we condemn the indifference of any elected official who does not now stand up for both military personnel and the LGBT community by opposing this purge.”
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