In a reversal for LGBTQ equality in the United States, the Trump administration has officially instructed the armed forced to begin discharging transgender military service members from 12 April.
The instructions, signed on Tuesday, state that any of the thousands of current transgender service members who come out, or is found out, after April 12 and is not willing to renounce and suppress their identity will be subject to discharge.
Several hundred service members who have previously transitioned – and anyone who manages to rush through the current military process to transition in the next 30 days – will be “exempt.”
The rest will only be allowed to serve as long as they do not request reassignment surgery or medication and are prepared to serve “in their biological sex” – effectively forcing transgender personnel back into hiding.
Around 15,000 transgender troops serve in the military, and President Trump’s ban has been denounced by former military leaders, Members of Congress from both parties, and the American Medical Association.
“The start of this looming purge represents an unprecedented step backward in the social and civil progress of our country and our military,” said Harper Jean Tobin, Director of Policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“The Trump administration is built on demonizing minority groups; reversing the civil rights gains of immigrants, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ movement will forever remain the hallmarks of their time in office,” continued Tobin.
“That is why Congress must act now and secure the fate of nearly 15,000 transgender troops. We cannot let an incompetent administration guided by a petulant bigot stand as the mascot of our time. History is watching Congress, and will judge them harshly for inaction.”
President Trump shocked the world in July 2017 by announcing on Twitter “that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”
Rights groups were initially successful in suspending the ban through the courts but in January the US Supreme Court struck down these injunctions pending the outcome of various cases challenging the ban.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slammed Trump’s ban as “bigoted” and said in a statement that, “The President’s years-long insistence on his cowardly ban makes clear that prejudice, not patriotism, guides his decisions. No one with the strength and bravery to serve in the US military should be turned away because of who they are.”