Local trans-activist: "I know many openly transgender service members and they aren't a distraction"

SEATTLE, Wash. -- The Executive Director of Gender Justice League reacted to President Trump's tweets early Wednesday morning that called for a ban on transgender service members in the military.

"A lot of transgender service members are afraid they'll be kicked out of the military tomorrow and its thrown a lot of families and people in upheaval over just a few tweets of really not a thought out policy,"  said trans-activist Danni Askini in response to the tweets.

"I think transgender people are just as capable as anyone else. I think we should be judged on the job that we do and if we are able to serve and do our duties not simply for our gender identity," said Askini.

President Trump's decision reversed a policy approved by the Defense Department under President Obama, which was still under final review. That policy would have allowed transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.

President's Trump's tweets came without a plan of what will happen to active transgender military members... leaving them confused.

"I think this is a huge step back and it's a mistake. It sends the message that our military is not welcoming at a time when we're fighting two wars and a War on Terrorism. To be telling young people that our country does not embrace people for who they are sends the wrong message," said Askini.

Some people who are for the ban say transgender service members cause a distraction, but Askini said that's not true.

"I know many openly transgender service members and they aren't a distraction. They go to work just like every other person in the service to do their job and their job is in service of their country, it's not about their gender identity, it's about what they're doing," said Askini.

Askini believes there is confusion among the people who support the ban.

"I think for folks who support the ban there's a lot of misunderstanding-- much like when the ban was lifted for 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'. What we've seen is that lifting that ban really had no impact on the preparedness of our armed services," said Askini.

Another argument from those who support the ban-- the cost of medical care for transgender service members. But a study found gender-change among service members is rare.

"The RAND Corporation report says that they only anticipate about 25 transgender service members out of the 1.3 million members of the armed services would ever need any type of surgery each year... so we're talking a miniscule number of people," said Askini.

That report recommended that " DoD should ensure strong leadership and identify and communicate the benefits of an inclusive and diverse workforce to successfully implement a policy change and successfully integrate openly serving transgender service members into the force."

The study estimated the number of transgender people in the military between 1,320 and 6,630.

"There are thousands of transgender veterans, people who have served this country honorably. Some of whom are bronze star medalists for serving their country, purple heart veterans. A lot of people are outraged at this action.  It feels like a distraction of whats actually happening in Washington and it feels like the transgender community is being used as a scapegoat and attacked," said Askini.

The ACLU released a statement Wednesday:

“This is an outrageous and desperate action. The thousands of transgender service members serving on the front lines for this country deserve better than a commander-in-chief who rejects their basic humanity.

“Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The president is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country.

“There is no basis for turning trans people away from our military and the ACLU is examining all of our options on how to fight this. For any trans service member affected by today’s announcement: Please get in touch with us, because we want to hear from you.”


Transgender Law Center

Lambda Legal