When Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he was banning transgender people from military service, 56 retired generals and admirals said, “No, sir.” Their statement, released on August 1, 2017, adds to the growing dossier of public objections—issued by concerned current and retired government officials, scientists, and other knowledgeable professionals—to Trump’s offensive utterances and casually tossed-off “ideas” for new policies.
Even the Joint Chiefs of Staff were blindsided by the out-of-the-blue tweet order. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford, responded by saying:
There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidelines. In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.
The reason behind Trump’s impulse to tweet out a far-reaching and backward-looking policy change like this one is not clear. He didn’t say why he was doing it. We can only speculate. It could be an effort to throw out some red meat for his base—given that he has not accomplished any of the terrible things that he promised them during the presidential campaign. Or, it could be a grandstanding distraction, launched to divert attention from the investigation into Trump’s Russia entanglements that is inching ever closer to him. Or, it could be a way of giving the ultra-conservative religious right and other angry white guys a win in their campaign to turn back the social clock. Whatever the reason, the twitter-edict has resulted in skepticism and potential disobedience from the very people who would have to implement it.
Below is the full text of the statement from retired generals and admirals, with my emphasis in bold. These guys are not dancing around the issue. They address each of the objections raised by transgender-phobes, and knock every one of them down—not just by opinion, but via facts and their direct observations of soldiers and units in the field.
And, although I am not a fan of most of the military actions that I have witnessed during my lifetime, this is one military intervention that makes complete sense. Trump has recently elevated several generals to his White House cabinet and inner circle, and they seem to be the only levelheaded people in the room. Trump apparently worships military honchos: Maybe he’ll listen to them, both in rescinding his transgender tweet-ban and in making even bigger decisions as they come along.
The Commander in Chief has tweeted a total ban of honorably serving transgender troops. This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy. As a result, the proposed ban would degrade readiness even more than the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Patriotic transgender Americans who are serving—and who want to serve—must not be dismissed, deprived of medically necessary health care, or forced to compromise their integrity or hide their identity.
President Trump seeks to ban transgender service members because of the financial cost and disruption associated with transgender military service. We respectfully disagree, and consider these claims to be without merit. The RAND Corporation, as well as research in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the financial cost of providing health care to transgender troops would be, at most, $8.4 million per year. This amounts to one one-hundredth of one percent of the military’s annual health care budget. As for ostensible disruptions, transgender troops have been serving honorably and openly for the past year, and have been widely praised by commanders.
Eighteen foreign nations, including the UK and Israel, allow transgender troops to serve, and none has reported any detriment to readiness.
Recently, two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken courageous stands in support of our transgender service members. General Martin Dempsey said of our transgender troops that, ‘The service of men and women who volunteer and who meet our standards of service is a blessing, not a burden.’
“And Admiral Mike Mullen stated that, ‘I led our armed forces under the flawed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and saw firsthand the harm to readiness and morale when we fail to treat all service members according to the same standards. Thousands of transgender Americans are currently serving in uniform and there is no reason to single out these brave men and women and deny them the medical care that they require. The military conducted a thorough research process on this issue and concluded that inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness.’
Admiral Mullen urged civilian leaders ‘to respect the military’s judgment and not to breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms.’ We could not agree more.”