A series of tweets from U.S. President Donald J. Trump on July 26 unexpectedly and dramatically appeared to upend the country's policy on transgender people serving in the military. Within the HIV community, where LGBT rights are staunchly advocated and discrimination against people of trans experience is steadfastly resisted, the response has been sharp.
[UPDATE 7/27: The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a letter stating that there will be no change to the military's existing policies regarding transgender people until new rules are clarified and formalized by the Defense Department.]
Positive Women's Network-USA quickly released a statement condemning "the Trump administration's vicious dehumanization of people who are trans and gender non conforming" and added:
Trump's inherent premise that some bodies are transgressive, disruptive, and by nature troublesome is at the very root of violence and discrimination faced by people who are trans and gender non conforming (TGNC) -- violence which too often is deadly, especially for TGNC people of color. This directive from the White House comes just weeks after the Republican-led US House rejected an amendment to dismantle medical rights of trans folks in the military. The amendment would have denied medical care required for gender transition, including prescription medications and surgeries.
According to Tiommi Luckett, PWN-USA's Communications Assistant and a black woman of trans experience, "Trump's tweets are just an amplified example of willful ignorance and unchecked stupidity about trans people and our bodies, which seems to always be the focus of conversation. This is one reason why our rights as human beings are infringed upon categorically, including our rights to housing, education, access to public facilities, healthcare and employment. 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."
The HIV Medicine Association, a large organization of HIV health care providers, also issued a brief statement from its chairperson, Wendy Armstrong, M.D.:
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 healthcare and too often contribute to late diagnoses, poor outcomes and often higher healthcare 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.
From GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie:
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.
LGBT civil rights organization Lambda Legal took to Facebook to express its dismay:
Myles Helfand is the editorial director of TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. Follow Myles on Twitter: @MylesatTheBody.
Ken Stockwell is senior web producer at TheBody.com.