President Donald Trump drew swift ire from Hollywood, politicians, civilians and journalists alike after a series of Wednesday morning tweets about his plans to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military.
Trump took to Twitter to deliver the announcement in three separate tweets, saying the U.S. government "will not accept or allow" transgender people to serve "in any capacity" in the military. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory," he wrote. "And cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
Trump did not say what would happen to the transgender people who are already in the military — as many as 250 service members are in the process of transitioning or have been approved to transition to their preferred genders, according to the Associated Press. A RAND Corp. study from 2016 estimated that there are about 1,320 and 6,630 transgender personnel in active duty. The study observed that the monetary costs of allowing transgender people to openly serve would likely be low, estimating that annually only 29 to 129 active service members would seek care disrupting their ability to deploy.
It is also not yet clear how Trump plans to implement the ban. As of Wednesday morning, the official Department of Defense policy on transgender service members remained unchanged on its website. Additionally, the White House press office was not given a heads up about Trump's Twitter announcement, CNN is reporting.
The Pentagon is referring all questions about Trump's announcement to the White House, and the White House has yet to release an official statement. "We will continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving in the military," Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told ABC News. "We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future." Sen. John McCain agreed there is "no reason to force service members who are able to fight, to leave military, regardless of their gender identity."
During Wednesday's White House press briefing, Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump's move as a "military decision," saying that Trump's national security team counseled him on decision, which was made yesterday. Sanders seemed to get frustrated by the repeated questions about the ban, which she said was about "military readiness and unit cohesion."
The move would reverse a change in policy under former President Barack Obama, as former Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted a ban on transgender troops last June. However, last month, Defense Secretary James Mattis announced a delay in the new policy's full implementation, saying the Pentagon would be reviewing the order that allows transgender service members to openly enlist through 2017. In reaction to the news, Carter told NBC News that Trump's action would "send the wrong signal to a younger generation thinking about our military service" and that what matters in choosing those who serve is that they are best qualified.
GLAAD was quick to denounce Trump's announcement, calling it a “direct attack" on transgender Americans. "His administration will stop at nothing to implement its anti-LGBTQ ideology within our government — even if it means denying some of our bravest Americans the right to serve and protect our nation,” said GLAAD president and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement. “Today further exposed President Trump’s overall goal to erase LGBTQ Americans from this nation. Trump has never been a friend to LGBTQ Americans, and this action couldn’t make that any more clear.”
The ACLU called the move an "outrageous and desperate action" in a statement: “This is an outrageous and desperate action. The thousands of transgender service members serving on the front lines for this country deserve better than a commander-in-chief who rejects their basic humanity. Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The president is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country. There is no basis for turning trans people away from our military and the ACLU is examining all of our options on how to fight this. For any trans service member affected by today’s announcement: Please get in touch with us, because we want to hear from you.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement: “No one who is patriotic, courageous, and selfless enough to serve in the armed forces should be denied that opportunity because of who they are. The President’s decision to bar transgender Americans from military service is at odds with the values of freedom and equality that our men and women in uniform fight for every day. Equality and respect — not discrimination — should guide how we treat anyone willing to risk their life to defend our country and its people.”
Orange Is the New Black transgender star and activist Laverne Cox, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, echoed the sentiment that the move continues to send the wrong message to trans Americans "that our lives, our safety and service are less valuable and unwanted in this country, the country I love and hold so dear."
Her full statement reads: "I have met many transgender Americans over the years who have served or are currently serving our country in the military. I have heard from them humiliating stories of being misgendered and experiencing various kinds of mistreatment when they are willing to put their lives on the line in ways many of us would never do including our current President. This latest reversal of another Obama administration policy continues to send the message to trans Americans that our lives, our safety and service are less valuable and unwanted in this country, the country I love and hold so dear. Let's all come together and send the message to trans Americans that despite what this president and administration proclaims that trans lives, safety and service are valuable, that they matter."
Former Vice President Joe Biden joined the chorus on social media, tweeting, "Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve. Full stop." Outspoken actor and activist George Takei said Trump will "regret" the decision, and actress Sandra Bernhard called on Caitlyn Jenner to give Trump a call, while Seth Rogen and James Corden attempted to spur Ivanka Trump to action for the LGBTQ community. Samantha Bee's Full Frontal team summed up their reply as: "FUCK YOU."
TLC's I Am Jazz star, Jazz Jennings, herself transgender, said, "Trans people embody courage & bravery. They stand in their truth & fight every day. Soldiers deserve respect for their service, not this."
Alyssa Milano and The Daily Show were two of many Twitter users who resurfaced a campaign tweet from Trump, where the then-2016 Republican presidential candidate promised to "fight" for the LGBTQ community. "Guess the 'T' is silent?" the Comedy Central show asked.
Jenner later replied to Trump's tweet on her Twitter account, asking him, "There are 15,000 patriotic transgender Americans in the US military fighting for all of us. What happened to your promise to fight for them?"
See the reactions on social media below.