On Wednesday, a series of tweets from President Donald Trump revealed his plan to reinstate a military ban on transgender individuals. According to Trump, the decision, which came after meeting with generals and military experts, is a result of the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” he alleges transgender service members cause for the armed forces.
The announcement has caused much confusion and raised many questions. For starters, according to The New York Times, a Pentagon official–General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—said that the military policy allowing transgender people to serve will not change until the White House sends the Defense Department new rules and the secretary of defense issues new guidelines.
But Trump’s announcement has also led many organizations to speak out against the ban. Below are responses from HIV organizations:
AIDS United, a national group seeking to ending the epidemic through grantmaking, capacity building and advocacy, released this statement:
AIDS United strongly condemns the recent announcement from President Trump stating that the United States government will no longer accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in the military in any capacity. This decision is an unacceptable and gross display of bigotry that is an insult to all U.S. service members faithfully serving their country. When the Obama administration announced last June that transgender individuals would be able to serve openly in the military, we were not “burdened,” but strengthened. A ban against Americans serving in the military because of their gender identity is a malicious and harmful action that is being carried out not for the safety or efficacy of those in uniform, but for the intolerance of those in power.
AIDS United is in solidarity with transgender service members and their families affected by the Trump Administration’s ban on transgender individuals in the military. We call on the Trump administration to immediately retract this ban and affirm the rights of transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military.
The Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), a New York City–based provider of HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy, released a statement in which CEO Kelsey Louie said:
President Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people from serving in the military is a direct affront to the thousands of transgender service members who have made tremendous sacrifices for our freedom. Today, more than 6,000 transgender and gender non-conforming Americans proudly serve in the armed forces. This dramatic change in policy devalues their contributions to our country, and effectively creates a second-class citizenship for those who identify as transgender. It is an enormous setback in the fight for equality.
Supporting our troops means supporting every person that serves in uniform—this patriotism should start with our commander in chief. GMHC will continue to fight any assault on LGBT rights, and will not stop until all Americans have the opportunity to serve as they are.
The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA), an organization of professionals who practice HIV medicine, released a statement from its chair, Wendy Armstrong, MD, FIDSA, which reads in its entirety:
The HIV Medicine Association decries the president’s announcement that his administration intends to ban all transgender individuals from military service, which is a reversal of current policy. As HIV medical providers, we stand firmly opposed to any laws and policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. As clinicians, we see firsthand the far-reaching negative consequences of any type of stigma and discrimination on individual health and on public health. Stigma and discrimination too frequently drive transgender persons away from engaging in health care and too often contribute to late diagnoses, poor outcomes and often higher health care costs for a number of health conditions, including HIV infection. We strongly urge the administration to reconsider this regressive stance and any future policy changes that abandon protections based on gender identify that will only serve to divide and weaken us as a country and will seriously undermine our nation’s public health.
The Positive Women’s Network–USA (PWN-USA), a national group of women living with HIV, also released a statement denouncing the administration’s “vicious dehumanization of people who are trans and gender nonconforming,” and called for the Trump administration to reverse and apologize for the ban.
In the press release, PWN-USA member Tiommi Luckett, a Black transgender woman, explained how the tweets were an example of the lack of knowledge and ignorance in regards to transgender people and their bodies. “This is one reason why our rights as human beings are infringed upon categorically, including our rights to housing, education, access to public facilities, health care and employment,” she write. “Our bodies, our appearances and our experiences are deemed unworthy of equal protection and fair access, and hateful rhetoric from the White House basically makes it open season to legislate discrimination. Trans people are not liabilities, nor are we sub-human. And our fight is not for equality, but for equity.”
As of press time, there has been no additional commentary out of the White House or Trump about the ban. But, as another New York Times article reports, the White House hasn’t provided answers because Trump’s declaration was unexpected. The ban comes amid an ongoing battle in Congress about whether the government should pay for medical costs for gender confirmation surgery and hormone therapy for those enlisted. The debate threatened to kill a $790 billion defense and security spending package that is set to be voted on this week, the Times reports, but instead of addressing the specific question of transgender medical costs, Trump decided to overturn current policy.
Although the president has claimed to support LGBT rights, reports the Washington Post, a timeline of his recent actions has shown otherwise. This past February, his administration reversed Obama-era protections for transgender students to use restrooms that identified with their preferred gender. In addition, unlike previous presidents, the White House failed to recognize LGBT Pride Month.
As the Times also notes, Trump critics also point out that his transgender ban could be a cynical ploy to motivate his conservative base and to divert attention from the growing scandal regarding his ties to Russia.