Last month, the Defense Department called for a six-month delay on letting transgender people to enlist in the U.S. military to allow for more time to study the potential impact. But Wednesday morning, President Trump called for trans people to be completely banned from military service.
There are currently about 15,500 transgender people in the military, 8,800 of whom are active duty service members. This makes the Defense Department the single largest employer of trans people in the U.S., according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Although the Obama administration repealed the "don't ask, don't tell" policy in 2011 that prohibited LGBTQ people from openly serving, transgender soldiers weren't allowed to be open about their identity until the Defense Department rescinded another policy in 2016. But, this only applied to trans folks already in the military.
Transgender people were supposed to be allowed to enlist in the armed forces beginning July 1, but Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in June that it would be delayed six months. Now, President Trump wants to keep transgender people out of the military altogether.
"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," Trump tweeted on Wednesday. "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."
Trump's claim that allowing trans people to serve would cost the federal government more money has also been touted by conservative organizations and members of Congress under the assumption that they will all want to undergo surgery or require hormone therapy. Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri previously said allowing transgender people to enlist would be "costly and a threat to our readiness" and proposed banning the Defense Department from spending money on transition-related healthcare.
However, a study from the research organization the RAND Corporation shows that extending transition-related care to trans military personnel would only increase healthcare costs by 0.04% to 0.13% annually.
Even with the ban on trans people enlisting in the armed forces still in place, the 15,500 trans people already serving in the military could be impacted by further policies prohibiting them from serving, as President Trump suggested. As the largest employer of trans folks — a group that already experiences disproportionately high rates of unemployment and homelessness — a Defense Department ban on their service would threaten thousands of trans peoples' livelihoods.
The ACLU tweeted in response to the president's comments, "Thousands of trans service-members on the front lines deserve better from their commander-in-chief."