Bay Area Transgender Rights Supporters Decry Trump Military Ban

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Transgender veterans and allies in the political world are fighting back in the wake of an announcement made this morning by President Donald Trump that trans service members will no longer be able to serve in the U.S. military.

“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 said this morning in a series of tweets around 6 a.m. Pacific time.

“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,” he added.

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, formerly San Francisco’s district attorney and the state’s attorney general, called Trump’s proposed ban “discriminatory, wrong and un-American.”

“The President’s claim that the service of transgender people impacts military readiness is not backed up by facts, nor is it publicly supported by our military leadership,” Harris said. “Removing thousands of transgender individuals currently serving would damage our security and make it more difficult to recruit the best possible fighting force going forward.”

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee also responded, calling the announcement another example of Trump pushing a political agenda based on prejudice.

“We should honor those who take the oath to protect our values as a nation, not discriminate based on their gender identity,” Lee wrote on Twitter. “.SF will continue to fight for the equal rights & representation of our .trans community. .TransRightsAreHumanRights.”

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, also fired back in a statement, saying he was “disgusted” and that “this bigoted move” makes him want to “fight harder to support and protect our transgender brothers and sisters.”

“Let’s all recommit to moving the LGBT community forward in spite of our bigoted president,” Wiener said.

Mario Benfield serves as adjutant of the American Legion’s only predominantly LGBT post, Post 448 in San Francisco. He served in the U.S.  Marine Corps from 1979 to 1984.

“Transgender Americans can do anything the rest of us can do,” Benfield said. “They can shoot a rifle, they can type, they fly airplanes, they can drive tanks.”

He estimates there are 4,000 trans individuals currently serving in the military, and today’s news will likely mean they’ll be issued a separation order, or kicked out of the service similar to what happened under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—a policy canned by the Obama administration in 2011.

He also thinks it will reduce the likelihood of trans recruits joining up in the future.

“We’ll have to do without them for a while until we come to a reckoning,” Benfield said.

A trans veteran of the U.S. Navy from San Jose who asked to be identified as Josie said this could be harmful for trans folks currently serving in the military as well as those thinking about joining up.

“The military has always been a way for people in bad situations to escape those situations and make a new life for themselves elsewhere,” Josie said.

“Knowing the rates of familial abuse and difficult home lives in the trans community, I feel this would place many young trans people using the military as their out in a situation where they face homelessness or a return to their abusers,” Josie said.

It may be difficult to take benefits from veterans who have already served and earned them, but that might not stop the Trump administration from trying, Josie said.

Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, fired back at Trump’s statement, calling this morning’s tweets yet another example of why major policy announcements shouldn’t be made on Twitter.

“There is no reason for service members who are able to fight, train and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity,” McCain said in a statement. “We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.”

The U.S. Department of Defense is studying the medical obligations and other impacts related to questions about trans individuals in the military, but new policy decisions are not appropriate until that study is complete, according to McCain.

A spokesman for the Department of Defense referred any questions to the White House.

© Copyright 2017 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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