The White House has followed through on Donald Trump’s controversial pledge and formally banned transgender people from serving in the military.
A memo (pdf) from the secretary of defense released late Friday night notes that trans people are “disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.” The memo did not clarify what constitutes as an “exception,” but it did state that the secretary of defense and secretary of homeland security “may exercise their authority to implement any appropriate policies concerning military service by transgender individuals.”
The White House believes that troops with a history or diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” end up putting “considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.” The ban follows Trump’s erratic announcement in July 2017, when through a series of Tweets he stated his intention to ban transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the US military. He claimed that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption” of trans service members. His Tweets had reportedly caught the Pentagon leadership off guard.
Trump’s initial announcement sparked several legal challenges. The directive on the matter had already been blocked by federal courts in four separate cases. As such, the ban does not go into immediate effect.
There has been widespread criticism of the ban. Numerous Republican senators, including John McCain, Susan Collins, and Orrin Hatch, have slammed the policy, while more than 50 retired generals and admirals signed a letter criticizing the ban. The House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi, condemned the new announcement in a statement, saying: “This latest memorandum is the same cowardly, disgusting ban the president announced last summer. No one with the strength and bravery to serve in the US military should be turned away because of who they are.”
It’s unclear how many transgender individuals currently serve in the US military. A Rand Corp study estimates there are 2,500 transgender personnel serving in active duty, and 1,500 in the reserves. The study suggests there are roughly only 30 to 130 active-duty troops seeking transition-related health care each year.