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Confusion and criticism follow Trump’s ban of transgender personnel in US military

The Pentagon, which has to enforce the ban, was completely taken by surprise, as were lawmakers and others in the administration.

world Updated: Jul 27, 2017 23:14 IST
Yashwant Raj
Protesters shout slogans against Donald Trump during a demonstration in front of the US Army career centre in Times Square, New York, on July 26, 2017.
Protesters shout slogans against Donald Trump during a demonstration in front of the US Army career centre in Times Square, New York, on July 26, 2017.(AFP)

Kristen Beck was a US Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and came out as transgender in 2011 after leaving the military. She has said President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people from serving in US military is “disrespectful”.

“I fight for every religion. I fight for every colour. Every race, every everything,” she told CNN. “And if he (Donald Trump) is going to pick and choose, that’s a wrong thing. That’s not what we believe in.”

Backlash to Trump’s Wednesday tweet has been fierce from all around.

“We are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back. #LetThemServe,” Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO who came out as gay in 2014, tweeted. Google’s Sundar Pichai, wrote “I am grateful to the transgender members of the military for their service. #LetThemServe.”

Even Republicans have criticised the ban. “I don’t think we should be discriminating against anyone,” Senator Orrin Hatch said in a statement. “Transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them.”

Chelsea Manning, a transgender US military personnel jailed for seven years for leaking classified information, tweeted, “So, biggest, baddest most $$ (costliest, presumably) military on earth cries about a few trans people but funds the F-35? Sounds like cowardice. #WeGotThis”

The Pentagon, which has to enforce the ban, was completely taken by surprise, as were lawmakers and others in the administration. Though there was no word yet from defence secretary James Mattis, who is on vacation, people close to have been reported to have said he is appalled.

Mattis was told of the ban just a day before Trump tweeted it out, and the department of defence is waiting for clarity on related issues of how to implement it. Such as: what will happen to transgender people already serving in military? Will they fired? Can they stay? There are an estimated 6,630 transgender individuals on active duty in the US military, according to a RAND corporation study from 2016.

Reuters reported, citing officials, that chairman of the joint chief of staff, Gen Joseph Dunford, told the military that the ban will be not be notified till further orders from Trump.

Calling the president’s tweet “unclear”, Senator John McCain, a Republican who heads the powerful senate armed services committee, said in a statement, “The department of defence has already decided to allow currently-serving transgender individuals to stay in the military, and many are serving honourably today. Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving.”

The White House has not been forthcoming with details either, adding to the confusion. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the precise rules and regulations will be worked out by the White House and the department of defence.

Trump is reported to have rushed the decision to pre-empt a potential problem in passing a $690 billion defence spending bill over provisions to fund gender transition and hormone therapy for transgender military personnel, which some Republican have opposed. The legislation also provides funding of $1billion for Trump’s wall along the border with Mexico, a key campaign promise.