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Transgender Ohioans with military ties shocked, angry over Trump's ban

By Danae King • Jul 27, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Jonah Minot is one of the thousands of transgender Americans who serve in the armed forces, and who may no longer be allowed to now.

Minot, 30, a Columbus resident and a first lieutenant in the Ohio Army National Guard, said he fears he may be discharged after President Donald Trump announced his intentions to ban transgender people from the military in a tweet Wednesday morning.

Minot came out as a transgender man to his unit in January, thinking he was safe to be honest because of a June 2016 Department of Defense decision stating that transgender Americans can't be discharged for their gender identity.

"I really hoped if there was a change in policy, I might get grandfathered in," Minot said.

That's why his first reaction was shock to Trump's tweet.

"It's not an executive order, it's not an official policy, but it's very concerning," said Minot, who fears he will be discharged and lose the opportunity to serve his country.

In a series of tweets posted around 9 a.m. Wednesday, Trump said: "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. 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. Thank you."

Jocelyn Rosnick, assistant policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, said the president's reasoning — medical cost and disruption — doesn't hold true.

"There's just no evidence to show that there would be an increased cost drawback or any sort of readiness drawback," she said. "There's just no basis for it."

Locally, Stonewall Columbus denounced the president's announcement.

"We stand by our brave, selfless transgender service members and will not stand idly by," according to the statement. "Please know that we will do everything we can to support and fight for our community."

There are at least 40,000 transgender adults in Ohio, Rosnick said. Among those is Jody Davis, a transgender woman who has served in the Ohio National Guard and hopes to do so again one day.

When Davis, who lives on the North Side, saw Trump's tweets, she said she was angry at first.

The nurse and social worker had recently called an Ohio National Guard recruiter to see about re-entering the service to counsel troops. She was first told she should be able to enter the service after July 1, then that date was postponed and she was told she could enter after Jan. 1, 2018. Now, she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to serve again.

"I understand that people who aren't knowledgeable about the trans world might see trans people as some other creature, but we're just people," Davis said. "I am a veteran, I am a citizen of the United States, and I love and support my country. I would love to help keep our country safe and defended."

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©2017 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) - Visit The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) at www.dispatch.com - Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Pentagon caught off guard by Trump’s ban on transgender troops

By Vera Bergengruen - McClatchy Washington Bureau (TNS)

 

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon was blindsided by President Donald Trump’s announcement on Wednesday that his administration would block transgender people from the U.S. military, and the Defense Department has no idea yet how it will affect troops already serving.

The president’s declaration on Twitter, saying transgender people would not be allowed to serve “in any capacity,” came a year after the Defense Department under former President Barack Obama lifted its ban on transgender troops serving openly.

On Wednesday, neither the Pentagon nor the White House could answer how the Trump administration intends to carry out such a ban — announced while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on vacation — or what it means for the thousands of transgender people already serving in the military.

The sudden blanket ban on all transgender troops seemed to take everyone by surprise in its scope. Lawmakers had been debating funding for medical care for transgender troops, and military leaders had been analyzing the impact of allowing transgender recruits. But no one had been debating a reversal of the existing policy allowing transgender troops to serve in the military.

Trump’s language indicated that those currently serving could be forced out, which advocates condemned as a betrayal after transgender troops were encouraged to identify themselves and serve openly after last year’s policy change. Military LGBT groups and civil rights groups threatened to sue if troops are not allowed to serve based on their gender identity.

Indeed, reaction was swift, and criticism came from both Republicans and Democrats.

Trump’s tweet “is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

McCain, who came to Trump’s aid Tuesday by returning to Washington after his cancer diagnosis to cast a critical health care vote, said any military personnel policy change should only come after a study had been “thoroughly reviewed by the secretary of defense, our military leadership, and the Congress.”

“The statement was unclear,” McCain said of Trump’s tweet. “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity.”

The president’s tweets sent the Pentagon, which was clearly not prepared to roll out any new guidance, scrambling. A few hours after being caught off guard by the announcement, a Pentagon spokesman would only say that the military would “work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the commander in chief,” which could be expected “in the near future.”

The Pentagon referred all questions to the White House, which did not provide any further details.

Asked what would happen to transgender members of the military currently deployed to war zones, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders could not answer. She insisted the move had been based on a “military decision,” but did not explain how it would be implemented or how it would impact active duty troops.

When the questions did not let up, she threatened to “call it a day” if reporters kept pressing for details.

Trump informed Mattis of his decision Tuesday, Sanders said. The Pentagon would not say whether the Pentagon chief agreed with it. Mattis had just recently delayed his decision by six months to “evaluate more carefully the impact” on military readiness of allowing transgender people to enlist. It was unclear why the president pushed forward Wednesday, especially as it wasn’t high on the Pentagon’s priority list.

As of Wednesday evening, the Defense Department website still carried the Obama-era policy, stating: “effective immediately, transgender service members may serve openly, and they can no longer be discharged or otherwise separated from the military solely for being transgender individuals.”

There are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender individuals currently serving on active duty, about 0.05 percent of the total active force, according to a Rand Corp. analysis. Other reviews put that number as high as 15,000.

Last year the Defense Department commissioned an extensive Rand study that concluded that letting transgender people serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on both military readiness and health care costs.

“To say that the impact on readiness or medical costs are too high is just not consistent with the data,” Radha Iyengar, a senior economist at the Rand Corp. who authored the report for the Pentagon, told McClatchy on Wednesday.

The analysis found that the cost could range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, which would make up an “exceedingly small proportion” of total health care expenditures. If, as the president indicated, the medical costs are a concern, he should consider the much larger costs associated with discharging and replacing military personnel, Iyengar said.

“There are also the costs to not allowing them open service, costs to separation that are real,” she said. “We spend a lot to train and equip them, and losing that is problematic.”

It cost the U.S. military $52,800 to discharge and replace each service member fired under “don’t ask, don’t tell,” according to a 2011 report from the Government Accountability Office. With more than 6,000 transgender service members on active duty, according to Rand Corp., what Trump is proposing would be both inconvenient and expensive.

The study estimated that there would only be 30 to 140 new hormone treatments a year in the military, with 25 to 130 gender transition-related surgeries among active service members. That number is “negligible and significantly smaller than the lack of availability due to medical conditions,” the study said. In 2015, there were 102,500 nondeployable soldiers in the Army alone.

In his tweets, Trump said the decision had been made “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,” the president tweeted. “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.”

Since October, transgender troops have been able to receive gender transition medical care through military services, and begin to formally change their gender identification in the Pentagon’s personnel system. The Obama administration had set a deadline of July 1, 2017, for the Pentagon to develop guidelines to allow transgender individuals to join the military if they met physical and medical standards.

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(Anita Kumar contributed to this report.)

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©2017 McClatchy Washington Bureau - Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com - Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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