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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Thursday, December 14, 2017

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Trump declares there’s no space for transgender people in military

Around 2,450 transgender personnel in US Army

Share on Facebook July 28, 2017, Reporter : Big News Network, Reader : 401

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - Donald Trump left the LGBT community shocked on Wednesday after he announced that he was banning transgender people from serving in U.S. military due to 'disruption' they would cause.

Weeks after the Pentagon announced it was reviewing transgender service policies, Trump surprised the LGBT and military communities, announcing the roll back of Obama era's inclusive policies that opened up the door for transgender people to serve in the U.S. armed forces.

Citing the "medical costs and disruption" they would cause in a series of tweets, Trump effectively banned transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, without providing any further details on the issues faced.

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.”

The new policy comes just weeks after Trump's Defence Secretary, Jim Mattis said that they were reviewing the issue. 

In June, Mattis said that the Pentagon was giving the military another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services would impact its "readiness and lethality.”

Trump’s announcement on Twitter seemed to have left communities furious and divided in opinion, and even managed to catch, the Pentagon unawares.

The Pentagon had no statement or press release following Trump's Twitter announcement but later indicated that it would "work closely" with the White House on the policies in the "near future.”

It referred all questions to the White House.

The new policies were also not reflected on the Department of Defence website at the time of Trump's announcement.

Since October last year, transgender people have been allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military, receive medical care, and start formally changing their gender identity in the Pentagon's personnel system. 

However, former Defence Secretary Ash Carter had given the military until July to develop policies around allowing people who had already identified as transgender to join the military if they met physical, medical, and other standards.

Military chiefs had, however, ought more time, arguing that they needed more time to assess policy, requesting an extension of six months past July.

On Wednesday, civil rights activists responded to Trump's transgender ban, saying that it ignored the facts surrounding transgender military service, and called it a cruel policy that violates human rights.

Tarah Demant, the director of Amnesty International USA's Gender, Sexuality, and Identity programme, said in a statement, “Today's announcement violates human rights of all transgender Americans. It lays bare the President's prejudice and underlines the fact that creating policy based on bigotry is becoming a dangerous and cruel pattern for President Trump. The administration continues to target minority communities without pause and without facts."

Currently, there are no official figures on the number of transgender people serving in the military, however, Carter quoted an estimate from the think tank Rand last year when making his decision.

He said then, that there are around 2,450 transgender personnel in some active position in the U.S. military. 

However, other groups like the Transgender American Veterans Association, American Military Partner Association, and OutServe-SLDN have said that the figure is higher at 15,500 transgender personnel in the military.

There are approximately 1.3 million active service members in the U.S. military, and 1,510 in the Select Reserve.

After the restrictions on transgender people were loosened last year, as many as 250 service members reportedly announced they were in the process of changing their gender identity.

There were many who had been approved for a formal gender change in the Pentagon's personnel system.

The announcement made in 2016 followed years of pressure from transgender rights activists to change the policy, an effort that increased following the repeal of the Pentagon's ‘Don't Ask Don't Tell’ policies in 2011. 

Don't Ask Don't Tell allowed gay people to serve in the military so long as they did not openly identify as gay.

Further, reports pointed out that transgender rights activists have long argued that a ban on service from the community does nothing but alienate and dehumanise transgender people. 

In addition, research institutions such as the Palm Center, a think tank have argued that allowing transgender people to serve in the military would be beneficial.

A report from the Transgender American Veterans Association and the American Military Partner Association said on the issue, "The outdated regulations serve no purpose and only dehumanise and prevent qualified and capable individuals from enlisting and serving. The ban perpetuates trauma to all those involved, both the service member and their family.”

Further, reports pointed out on Wednesday that the Pentagon itself has noted that increasing the eligibility for serving in the military could be beneficial. 

Following last year's announcement, the Department of Defence posted a video online that said that 75 percent of young adults in the United States are ineligible to join the military for reasons related to health, educational background, or physical appearance. The video also noted that the decision to open up eligibility to serve to transgender people included input from: the leadership of the armed forces, medical and personnel experts across the Pentagon, transgender service members, outside medical experts, advocacy groups, and the RAND corporation.

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