Trump Reverses Decision to Allow Trans Individuals to Serve in Military

Person serving in U.S. air forceThrough a series of tweets on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender individuals in the United States military. This is a complete reversal of former President Barack Obama’s decision to end the once-longstanding ban on transgender service members.

The Obama administration made several sweeping changes to the U.S. military, including opening combat roles to women and allowing LGBTQ+ individuals to openly serve.

A New Ban on Transgender Military Members

Trump cited general “disruption” and “tremendous medical costs” as the reasoning behind the new ban, saying the U.S. military needs to focus on victory instead of on accommodation for trans individuals. Estimates place the number of trans individuals actively serving in the military in some capacity somewhere between 1,300 and 6,000 out of a total of 1.3 million.

The ban comes after a delay last month in the decision to allow transgender recruits to join. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said military leaders would need an extra six months to determine the decision’s impact.

The main area being analyzed by military leaders was the former administration’s practice of requiring the federal government to pay for gender transition treatment and health care during military service. A measure to block the Pentagon from paying for transition surgery and hormone therapy failed in the House earlier this month. However, some Republicans have declared a refusal to support any military spending bill that does not include specific language barring money for transgender health issues.

According to a 2016 report from the RAND Corporation, which has been cited and was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the projected impact of transgender service members on health care costs and overall readiness of the military was likely to be minimal. Even among the estimated 1,300-6,000 transgender service members, not all will necessarily seek medical treatment related to transition. The study estimates additional health care costs could end up between $2.4 million and $8.4 million—about a 0.13% increase overall.

Recommendations for a Diverse, Inclusive Military

Currently, 18 other countries allow transgender individuals to serve in their militaries. In studying these foreign militaries, the RAND study found no evidence of significant effects on operational effectiveness, readiness, or military cohesion. In the case of bullying and harassment incidents toward transgender service members, foreign military leaders say they have been able to mitigate any negative effects by implementing training guidelines and clear policies.

The RAND study makes several recommendations to military leaders who allow transgender individuals to serve:

  • Implement a clear policy against harassment and bullying of all kinds, and treat harassment toward trans individuals the same as any other kind of harassment.
  • Develop and require diversity training and education that includes information on transgender personnel.
  • Write a policy that goes through all aspects of gender transitioning while in service
  • Make sure subject-matter experts on gender are available to any military leader or commander seeking general advice or guidance.
  • Cultivate strong support among military leaders.
  • Clearly communicate the multiple benefits of a diverse and inclusive working environment.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) encourages transgender individuals to contact the ACLU immediately if they are facing any discrimination in light of the new ban.


  1. Hirschfeld Davis, J., & Sullivan, E. (2017, July 26). Trump says transgender people will not be allowed in the military. Retrieved from
  2. Margolin, E. (2016, June 30). With transgender military ban lifted, Obama cements historic LGBT rights legacy. Retrieved from
  3. Phillip, A., & Gibbons-Neff, T. (2017, July 26). Trump announces ban on transgender people in U.S. military. Retrieved from
  4. Schaefer, A., Iyengar, R., Kadiyala, S., Kavanagh, J., Engel, C., Williams, K., & Kress, A. (2016). Assessing the implications of allowing transgender personnel to serve openly. doi:10.7249/rr1530
  5. Shane, G. R. (2017, January 8). The Obama era is over. Here’s how the military rates his legacy. Retrieved from

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  • Christopher

    July 26th, 2017 at 10:14 AM

    I’m sorry, but in what way does being transgender disqualify you from being a good soldier?

  • Bernadette

    July 27th, 2017 at 1:10 PM

    I could never pretend to know what the president was thinking when he issued this tweet, that now serves as his platform for issuing policy decisions I suppose. Anyway the thing that always strikes me with talks such as this is that we have a volunteer military. We ask people not compel or require them for their service and those who enlist hopefully do so willingly and because they wish to protect and serve. They are far braver than I could ever be in a military situation, front lines of combat or not. Why when we need a strong and united military more than ever would we veer choose to turn away the service of those who are so freely and willingly giving it? This absolutely makes no sense to me, but if anyone has a logical argument for why this was the right thing to do, please feel free to enlighten me.

  • Helen

    July 31st, 2017 at 12:24 PM

    There will always be concerns over who is fit to serve in the military and who is not. I understand that. I think that my biggest issue here is not over transgender individuals, because goodness knows that there will always be those arguments.

    But since when does the president just assume that he is both judge and jury and that he and he alone has the right to make all of these rules which obviously do not follow the rule of law?

    I think that we are on the verge of our republic being ruined in one fell swoop by one ignorant individual holding office.

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