Transgender service members and veterans were dismayed by President Trump’s tweets Wednesday announcing a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, but some say they doubt the prohibition will take effect.
“Overall, I’m hopeful,” said Madison Holderegger, 23, a transwoman currently serving in the Wyoming Army National Guard. “The outlook seems good that this isn’t something that’s going to actually go through.”
In the tweets, Trump said the ban was due to the increased medical cost of transgender service members, though the RAND Corp. report commissioned by the Pentagon last year listed the cost at no more than $8 million per year.
Holderegger said she was stunned by Trump’s reasoning, as she — as well as a few others she knows in the National Guard who are transitioning — has been paying for her transition without help from the military.
“It’s a big blow. It hurts a lot,” Holderegger said. “Personally, me and a few other of the transgender people I know in the National Guard, we’re paying for our transition out of pocket, and to hear that we’re being kicked out due to budget issues, it’s pretty disheartening.”
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“I’ve served for four and a half years and I have never been an issue, and now I am for this?” Holderegger continued.
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Matthew (Emily) Mol, 32, a chief petty officer in the Navy, is transitioning to female and trying to focus on moving forward.
“My initial reaction has always been somewhat reserved and today was no different. It’s a tweet, not an order,” Mol said. He said he would contact his representatives but would comply with whatever orders are issued. “I’m not happy with it of course, but that’s the point: We do what we’re told. We serve honorably and we serve.”
Veteran Emma Shinn, 41, said she is appalled by the president’s tweets, and sees them as a painful distraction.
“I’m absolutely disgusted. I think it's using transgender service members as a political pawn to distract from the ongoing issues the admin has,” Shinn said.
Still, others fear what could happen, especially considering how frequently the president uses Twitter. Frankie Perez, who recently ended his decade of service to go to college, said the news of the ban did not come exactly as a surprise to him because he doesn’t believe the Trump administration has been supportive of the LGBTQ community.
“I know it was just a tweet — it’s not anything in policy yet — but that has a lot of influence,” Perez said. “The administration all believes in a lot of the same things, so if Trump is tweeting about it, it could become policy.”
Former Navy lieutenant commander Brynn Tannehill, 42, who now works as a defense analyst, believes the policy is wrongheaded.
“I’m shocked that they’re doing this,” Tannehill said. “It’s hard to see what can be gained by doing great harm to people who simply want to serve their country and who have been for decades. How does this do right by transgender people serving today? How does it do right by serving our military? It doesn’t.”
It is not clear what will happen to transgender troops currently serving, but if the tweets do become policy, Tannehill said it will cause a greater disturbance to the military than anything else.
“We have transgender people filling critical roles everywhere,” Tannehill said. “If you remove them from their units now, it will disrupt their ability to do their jobs.”
Ultimately, what veterans like Perez want is to be treated equally with respect.
“I just want everyone to know that we’re literally just like everyone else, just doing our jobs," Perez said. “We don’t want to be the center of attention or anything. There’s nothing more to that.”