Local transgender advocacy groups speak out on Trump's military trans ban

Brandon Paykamian • Updated Jul 26, 2017 at 11:39 PM

A year after former Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the ban on transgender people serving in the military, more than 15,000 openly transgender people are in the United States military.

But after consulting with “generals and military experts,” President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that the government “will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” sparking outrage among transgender advocates throughout the nation.

“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,” Trump added.

Members of local transgender advocacy groups like PFLAG and Tri-Cities Transgender said they are disappointed in Trump’s statement on reissuing the ban. Though many LGBTQ groups have accused the president of homophobia and transphobia, even after promising last year to “fight” for the LGBTQ community if elected, this recent tweet was especially “deplorable” to Tri-Cities Transgender Secretary Aislinn Bailey, who is a veteran.

Bailey was stationed in Korea in 1999 and served in active duty for more than four years before being honorably discharged. She said many transgender individuals have served “valiantly,” which makes Trump’s statements even more disappointing.

“I think it's quite deplorable. We've been serving since the founding of the modern military, and there's even (trans) people who served during World War II,” Bailey said. “Honestly, it’s nothing more than what I expected from him. He’s shown time and time again that he always goes back on his promises.”

“Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs,” Trump Tweeted in 2016.

Bailey said she’s particularly concerned that Trump and his administration raised the issue of providing health care to transgender military personnel to rationalize his position. 

Though Trump Tweeted that the United States “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” these health care costs make up about $8 million of the $600 billion-plus Pentagon budget.

This may be a small fraction of the expenditures, but Bailey said this could greatly affect veterans like her.

“There are quite a few of us who get our health care at the VA, so yes, we are very concerned and upset over this,” Bailey said. “I think the biggest thing we need to do right now is do what we're always doing. Showing that we’re here, we’re not going anywhere, we're not gonna be silent — and we deserve equal rights as much as anybody else.”

Max Savage, a representative of PFLAG, also said it’s disappointing to see the current administration’s hostility toward the transgender community, which he said shows “how little this administration cares about human rights and human dignity.”

“This is a classic case of a bully going after a community to avoid attention being focused on something he wants to hide from scrutiny. That said, it is an abomination that this administration would care so little for lives that don't belong to wealthy cisgender white men that they would use disrespecting service members as a political distraction,” Savage said.

“I'm sad for my friends who are veterans getting the message that they don't matter to the country they fought for, and I'm angry about the message being sent to trans kids that says that they can't grow up to do what they want to do or be what they want to be.”

Debate about Trump’s statements also was evident on the Johnson City Press’ Facebook page. Some supported the president’s position. Others opposed it.

• John Lewis: “The problem is not so much having transgenders serving in the military. The problem is when they enlist and then opt to have the surgery, which takes them out of a duty status for up to a year, which directly affects mission readiness and capability because not only does another service member have to do his/her job, they have to do the job of the person who is out of a duty status.”

• Peggy Adams: “As it should be!”

• Holly Fouch: “If there is a transgendered person willing to sign up and serve, then let them.”

• Jennifer Burnham: “Transgender people have already been fighting for our freedom for decades, if not hundreds of years. They already have put their lives on the line for us when most of us would not,” she wrote. “I can understand not covering their surgery under insurance. I would call that elective. And since it is elective, I doubt the military covers it already. But kicking them out entirely? Nope. The only thing that matters is ‘Can they do their job?’ Yes? Then shut up.”

Email Brandon Paykamian at bpaykamian@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Brandon Paykamian on Twitter at @PaykamianJCP. Like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PaykamianJCP.