President Trump. (The White House / CC-BY)

On Wednesday, Donald Trump announced via Twitter that transgender people will be barred from serving in the U.S. military.

This policy shift reverses a 2016 decision made by the Obama administration that allowed transgender people to serve in the military. According to the Military Times, as of Oct. 1, transgender troops were allowed to receive medical care and change their gender identifications in the Pentagon’s personnel system. The defense secretary at the time, Ash Carter, said ending the ban was the right thing to do but “also gave the services until July 1 to develop policies to allow people already identifying as transgender to newly join the military, if they meet physical, medical and other standards, and have been stable in their identified genders for 18 months,” the Military Times reports.

On June 30, the eve of the deadline, James Mattis, Carter’s successor, delayed allowing transgender individuals into the military until Jan 1, 2018, at the earliest, calling for an official review of the policy’s impact on the armed forces.

Less than a month later, a conclusion was reached in that review.

BBC reports:

The timing of this transgender ban is almost as interesting as the move itself.

Why now? With the Trump administration being buffeted by the Jeff Sessions political death watch, the ongoing multi-prong investigation into the Trump campaign, the healthcare drama in the Senate and the impending Russian sanctions bill, perhaps the administration decided this was a good time to change the subject and rally conservative forces to his side.

Republicans have long used cultural issues as a wedge to divide Democrats and energise evangelicals. As one White House insider acknowledged, this is straight out of that playbook. While Mr Trump campaigned as sympathetic to LGBT rights, he needs the traditional religious conservatives to stay loyal to him now, more than ever.

His populist supporters won’t consider this a top issue, but the president needs more than just his die-hard loyalists in his corner, particularly if he’s going to stoke intraparty discord by continuing to feud with Mr Sessions.

… The president’s action will create a furor among liberals and the media commentators whose disdain for the current administration is not a new development. This is a fight the White House will welcome.

In 2011, the U.S. military lifted its ban on allowing openly gay and lesbian men and women into the armed forces (the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy). Some experts think Trump’s latest decision will now force transgender troops to hide their true identities.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell was a disastrous policy that harmed the military for almost two decades,” Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a think tank that studies gender and sexuality in the military, told the BBC, according to Radio New Zealand.

“It’s not clear why the president would want to bring it back now for transgender troops, when all the evidence suggests that inclusive policy benefits the military and discrimination hurts the military.”

Carter too was critical of Trump’s move. “To choose service members on other grounds than military qualifications is social policy and has no place in our military,” the former defense secretary said in a written statement. “There are already transgender individuals who are serving capably and honorably.”

—Posted by Donald Kaufman.


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