President Donald Trump signed a long-awaited directive Friday evening that bans transgender people from enlisting in the U.S. military and bans the Department of Defense from providing military treatment to current transgender service members. The directive follows an announcement Trump made on Twitter last month, blindsiding the defense secretary and the public more broadly — and like last time, there Trump was met with a wave of backlash.
A draft of this memorandum was reported on Wednesday, and there has been widespread criticism from trans activists, lawmakers, and current and former members of the military over the last few days.
“When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter after I was shot down, I didn’t care if the American troops risking their lives to save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, or brown,” Sen. Tammy Duckwork (D-IL) said in a statement on Wednesday.
When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk, I didn’t care if the troops saving me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white or brown pic.twitter.com/FTzjHpZuuH
— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) August 24, 2017
“It would be a step in the wrong direction to force currently serving transgender individuals to leave the military solely on the basis of their gender identity rather than medical and readiness standards that should always be at the heart of Department of Defense personnel policy,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) also said in a statement on Wednesday. “The Pentagon’s ongoing study on this issue should be completed before any decisions are made with regard to accession. The Senate Armed Services Committee will continue to conduct oversight on this important issue.”
Chase Strangio, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), shared an essay from his brother on the ban. “This is not about politics,” he wrote. “This is not about military readiness or cost. This is a calculated decision to discriminate against an already vulnerable group of people, one that will have devastating effects for countless Americans.”
— Chase Strangio (@chasestrangio) August 24, 2017
Chelsea Manning, perhaps the military’s most famous trans service member, said Trump was “normalizing hate” and questioned its timing.
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) August 26, 2017
Jen Richards, an actress and producer best known for the web series Her Story, called for unity.
Remember, the right can go after trans people because we have small numbers and they think no one will stand with us.
— Jen Richards (@SmartAssJen) August 25, 2017
Laverne Cox, an actress perhaps best known for her role in Orange Is The New Black, called the ban “yet another attack on transgender Americans who want to contribute to society.”
— Laverne Cox (@Lavernecox) August 26, 2017
The ACLU, Lambda Legal, and OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) have all said they will see Trump in court on Monday.
— ACLU National (@ACLU) August 25, 2017
— Lambda Legal (@LambdaLegal) August 25, 2017
— OutServe-SLDN (@OutServeSLDN) August 26, 2017
Five transgender service members are also separately suing Trump over the ban.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will have wide discretion on whether transgender service members can continue to serve, and he has six months to develop a plan to implement Trump’s memorandum.
As ThinkProgress reported last month, Trump’s decision to ban transgender service members from the military was about electoral politics, using transgender people as pawns after congressional infighting over funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. The military currently spends ten times more on erectile dysfunction as it would on transgender medical care.