Local reaction was strong and swift to President Donald Trump’s Wednesday morning tweets that transgender people will no longer be allowed to serve in the military.
“Transgender persons are serving, and always have served, in the military,” said Tim Holbrook, a professor of law at Emory University. “The only issue is how welcome will they be to live their authentic lives openly.”
President Trump said that the U.S. military will not accept transgender troops into its ranks or allow them to serve in any capacity, reversing a policy that began under the Obama administration.
In a series of morning tweets, Trump said that, after consulting "with my generals and military experts," the U.S. government "will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."
The U.S. military, he said, "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 Holbrook said the costs of transgender health care is minimal relative to overall military costs.
“Trump’s concerns about readiness are rooted in transphobia,” Holbrook said. “Our professional military can handle openly trans military personnel, just as they have handled women in combat and openly gay and lesbian soldiers and sailors."
“For those of us in the LGBTQ community, this statement is a clear sign that President Trump and his administration are not our friends or allies,” Holbrook said.
State Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-81), an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq, said that, for military personnel, this isn't an issue.
"The U.S. Department of Defense carefully studied this issue before implementing the current policy," Holcomb said. "It explained why it was changing its policy and addressed both issues of military readiness and cost. Other than a tweet from an unreliable source, I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that a serious review of existing policy took place."
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
....Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
....victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
It’s unclear how the announcement will affect the estimated 6,000 transgender troops who are already in the military. Under the policy announced in July 2016, those troops were allowed to serve openly. Prior to that the military discharged them for medical reasons.
It's also unclear whether a series of tweets constitute a presidential directive, and whether Trump must sign documents to make the new policy effective.
"Those who are serving and who meet the standards should be permitted to continue serving," Holcomb said. "In every conversation that I’ve had with both senior leaders and junior service members about the DoD’s changes to be more inclusive, everyone has told me that they’ve been a non-issue."
U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Atlanta) posted his reaction on his Facebook page:
"We were shocked and disturbed to see today’s tweets from President Trump regarding the service of transgender individuals in our armed forces," said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. "The U.S. military is the largest employer of transgender people in the world, employing an estimated 15,000 transgender people. Coming from a President that ran on the promise of creating jobs, making a move to strip jobs from 15,000 Americans shows the president’s true feeling toward LGBTQ people."
Last month, the Army had begun compulsory transgender sensitivity training for soldiers and civilian employees.
“Republican icon and U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater once said, ‘You don't need to be 'straight' to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight,’" said Tyler Deaton, senior advisor to the American Unity Fund. “President Trump promised to protect the transgender community. But he has broken his promise and, coupled with his administration's efforts to roll back protections for transgender students in our nation's public schools, he is developing an undeniable pattern of anti-gay and anti-transgender policy while in office.”
Trump sought the support of LGBT voters during last year's election against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2016
"If President Trump actually pursues a policy similar to the idea vaguely outlined in his tweets this morning, he would be disregarding Congress, the Joint Chiefs, and the Pentagon," Deaton, whose organization works with the Georgia Log Cabin Republicans, said. "He will draw himself into yet another round of losing lawsuits stretching across the country. Most importantly, he will harm patriotic transgender Americans, who are on the frontlines at this very moment destroying our enemies and protecting our freedom."