Recent Comments

    Hundreds Gather in the Castro to Protest Trump’s Proposed Transgender Military Ban

    By Dennis McMillan

    Trump’s July 26 tweets concerning transgender individuals in the military, made while the Secretary of Defense was on vacation, surprised even the Pentagon. Just last June, the Obama administration had lifted the ban on transgender military service. In response to Trump, a group called The San Francisco Resistance (https://www.facebook.com/SFresistance/) sent out emergency alerts via social media immediately after the tweets went out. The group called for a rally and march in the Castro that day. Hundreds of protesters heeded the call and overflowed Harvey Milk Plaza.

    The rally consisted of an open-mic for transgendered men and women to speak their minds. Among them, Megan Rohrer, a trans man and chaplain for the SFPD, said, “I will support every soldier that comes home and make sure they have healthcare.” He added, “Our love is greater than that hate,” and led the demonstrators in a chant: “Out of the bars and into the streets!” This was one of dozens of similar protests held across the nation.

    Protestors carried signs saying, “Transgender Equality Now,” “The President shall not troll on twitter. #DeleteHisAccount!” and “Trans people are not a burden!” One of the placards pictured Trump in a Russian fur hat with a communist symbol portrayed as a bad Uncle Sam saying, “I DON’T want you for U.S. Army!” A large banner declared in bold caps: “RESIST!” Pride flags and transgender flags flew beneath the big Rainbow Flag in Harvey Milk Plaza. The crowd chanted: “When trans rights are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”

    After the rally, the crowd marched to the Tenderloin and the site of the August 1966 Compton’s Cafeteria Riots by transgenders. After more speeches, everyone marched to City Hall, which was lit up in the pink, blue, and white colors of the transgender pride flag.

    Since no politicos and celebrities were asked to speak at the demonstrations, openly LGBTQ members of Congress and officials from across the U.S. responded online, in press conferences and at a rally in front of the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon.

    “We have a coward attacking heroes,” said Supervisor Jeff Sheehy of the Castro District. “This is a man who failed to serve in the military … because of an alleged bone spur that he acquired while playing golf. This is outrageous and disgusting.”

    “His absurd claims about healthcare costs are ridiculous,” said Theresa Sparks, senior advisor to the Mayor for transgender initiatives, who served in the Navy for five years. Sparks, who is also featured in this issue of the paper, noted that when they first started offering healthcare for trans people in San Francisco, there were wild claims that the City would go bankrupt, “but that never happened.” She added, “It’s not disruptive and never has been.” She noted that Trump lied, and did not, in fact, consult with his top military advisors.

    A report released last year, “Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly,” found that there would only be a .04% to .13% increase in military healthcare expenditures and “minimal likely impact on force readiness.”

    Mayor Ed Lee called Trump’s tweeted ban “discriminatory at its core.” He said, “This is what we reject.”

    Senator Scott Wiener stated, “How can our country lead internationally when our President attacks civil rights at home? Let’s all recommit to moving the LGBT community forward in spite of our bigoted President.”

    California Senator Kamala Harris said, “This is discriminatory and un-American. To the transgender service members who defend our nation, I stand with you.”

    Openly transgender Air Force Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland, on active duty, stated, “I would like to see them try to kick me out of my military. I would challenge them [in court].” He continued, “You are not going to deny me my right to serve my country when I am fully qualified and able and willing to give my life.”

    “This disgusting ban will weaken our military,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi.

    On the negative end, Energy Secretary Rick Perry is defending Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military service, saying it’s “not very wise from a standpoint of economics.”

    “On yesterday’s date, sixty-nine years ago, President Truman took a stand for inclusion and justice by signing an executive order that desegregated the armed forces,” said Rye Young, a trans activist and executive director of Third Wave Fund. “But yesterday, President Trump stood for the opposite by announcing a discriminatory and repulsive policy that would ban patriotic transgender Americans from serving in the military.”

    “President Trump has, once again, betrayed the LGBTQ community he claimed to support during his campaign,” Pride at Work Executive Director Jerame Davis said. “Make no mistake—this decision is driven by Vice President Mike Pence’s unending crusade against LGBTQ people.”

    In a July 27 letter to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, 19 attorneys general expressed their opposition to the President’s proposed ban on transgender people serving in the Armed Forces. Led by Hawaii Attorney General Doug Chin, the letter was also signed by attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Washington D.C. Attorney General Chin said, “Policies that have no factual basis and that marginalize and reject classes of people have no place in the 21st century. This discriminatory policy is illegal.”

    In a letter to the military service chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the policy on who is allowed to serve will not change until the White House sends the Defense Department a rules change, and the Secretary of Defense issues new guidelines. “In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” General Dunford said in the letter. “As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

    The military said it would continue to permit transgender people to serve until the White House officially changes the guidelines.

    Should the ban of transgender individuals from military service actually occur, Lambda Legal and Outserve-SLDN—as reported in this issue—have joined forces and “hatched a plan to sue in a heartbeat.”

    A majority of Americans believe that transgender individuals should be allowed to serve in the military, according to an exclusive Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on July 28. The July 26–28 poll suggested that the country largely disagrees with President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will ban transgender personnel from the armed forces.

    But late last Sunday night, the Los Angeles Blade reported that Trump‘s tweets calling for a ban on transgender people in the military have taken the first step toward becoming law. As noted by The Guardian, Trump’s declarations on Twitter don’t have any legal power, but the content of those tweets has been made into “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out” by White House staff, and the White House Counsel approved the policy as legal “guidance.” An unnamed source told the Blade, “The administration want[s] to get rid of transgender service members as fast as they can.”

    The Guidance Policy holds that the military should encourage early retirement for transgender people and should fire those who are up for promotion in order to purge the military of the estimated 15,000 transgender people in service. The document, which as of this writing is in the process of being sent to the Defense Department, does not mention transgender service members who are currently serving in combat. Currently, any removal of transgendered military personnel remains on hold.


    Coast Guard Chief Vows to Support Transgender Troops

    At a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies event held in Washington, D.C., Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft of the U.S. Coast Guard made bold statements in defiance of President Trump’s proposed ban of transgender individuals in the military.

    Regarding his immediate reaction to Trump’s tweets, Zukunft told attendees, “The first thing we did is we reached out to all 13 members of the Coast Guard who have come out,” The Hill reported. He then referenced a recent Washington Post cover story article concerning Lt. Taylor Miller, the first openly transitioning Coast Guard member.

    “If you read that story, Taylor’s family has disowned her,” Zukunft said. “And I told Taylor, I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard and I will not break faith.”

    “And so that was the commitment to our people right now,” he added. “Very small numbers, but all of them are doing meaningful Coast Guard work today.” 

    Zukunft has reached out to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly about concerns following Trump’s threat. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was brought into the discussion by Kelly. They and others supported the move by the Pentagon last year to lift the ban on transgenders serving in the military.

    Zukunft then said, “The U.S. Coast Guard has been involved in the Department of Defense’s extensive review of this issue, and will align its policies with the other military services. All qualified people who wish to serve in our Nation’s military should have the opportunity to do so. Today’s announcement is another important step in that direction.”

    Trump’s desired ban would clearly represent a devastating step backward. It is hopeful that so many military leaders like Zukunft are standing for the rights of all who are under their command, and not just some.


     

    Fifty-Six Retired Generals and Admirals Issue Warning Concerning Military Readiness

    On August 1, fifty-six retired General and Flag Officers provided a statement to the Palm Center, a San Francisco-based independent research institute (palmcenter.org). The statement, presented here in its entirety, warns that President Trump’s anti-transgender tweets, if implemented, would degrade military readiness.

    “The Commander in Chief has tweeted a total ban of honorably serving transgender troops. This proposed ban, if implemented, would cause significant disruptions, deprive the military of mission-critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy. As a result, the proposed ban would degrade readiness even more than the failed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy. Patriotic transgender Americans who are serving—and who want to serve—must not be dismissed, deprived of medically necessary health care, or forced to compromise their integrity or hide their identity.

     President Trump seeks to ban transgender service members because of the financial cost and disruption associated with transgender military service. We respectfully disagree, and consider these claims to be without merit. The RAND Corporation (https://www.rand.org/news/press/2016/06/30.html), as well as research in the New England Journal of Medicine (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1509230#t=article), found that the financial cost of providing health care to transgender troops would be, at most, $8.4 million per year. This amounts to one one-hundredth of one percent of the military’s annual health care budget.

    As for ostensible disruptions, transgender troops have been serving honorably and openly for the past year, and have been widely praised by commanders. Eighteen foreign nations, including the U.K. and Israel, allow transgender troops to serve, and none has reported any detriment to readiness.

     Recently, two former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have taken courageous stands in support of our transgender service members. General Martin Dempsey said of our transgender troops that, ‘The service of men and women who volunteer and who meet our standards of service is a blessing, not a burden.’

    And Admiral Mike Mullen stated that, ‘I led our armed forces under the flawed ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy and saw firsthand the harm to readiness and morale when we fail to treat all service members according to the same standards. Thousands of transgender Americans are currently serving in uniform and there is no reason to single out these brave men and women and deny them the medical care that they require. The military conducted a thorough research process on this issue and concluded that inclusive policy for transgender troops promotes readiness.’ Admiral Mullen urged civilian leaders ‘to respect the military’s judgment and not to breach the faith of service members who defend our freedoms.’ We could not agree more.”

    General John R. Allen, USMC (Retired)

    General Robert W. Sennewald, USA (Retired)

    Vice Admiral Donald Arthur, USN (Retired)

    Lieutenant General Robert Gard, USA (Retired)

    Lieutenant General Walter Gaskin, USMC (Retired)

    Vice Admiral Kevin P. Green, USN (Retired)

    Lieutenant General Arlen D. Jameson, USAF (Retired)

    Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, USA (Retired)

    Lieutenant General Willie Williams, USMC (Retired)

    Major General Juan G. Ayala, USMC (Retired)

    Major General Donna Barbisch, USA (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Chris Cole, USN (Retired)

    Major General Vance Coleman, USA (Retired)

    Major General J. Gary Cooper, USMC (Retired)

    Major General Paul Eaton, USA (Retired)

    Major General Mari K. Eder, USA (Retired)

    Rear Admiral F. Stephen Glass, USN (Retired)

    Major General Richard S. Haddad, USAF (Retired)

    Major General Irv Halter, USAF (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Jan Hamby, USN (Retired)

    Major General Marcelite J. Harris, USAF (Retired)

    Rear Admiral John Hutson, JAGC, USN (Retired)

    Major General James R. Klugh, Sr., USA (Retired)

    Major General Dennis Laich, USA (Retired)

    Major General Randy Manner, USA (Retired)

    Major General Dee Ann McWilliams, USA (Retired) 

    Major General John Phillips, USAF (Retired)

    Major General Dana J.H. Pittard, USA (Retired)

    Major General Gale Pollock, CRNA, FACHE, FAAN, USA (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Harold Robinson, USN (Retired)

    Major General Patricia Rose, USAF (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, USPHS/USCG (Retired)

    Major General Antonio Taguba, USA (Retired)

    Major General Peggy Wilmoth, PhD, MSS, RN, FAAN, USA (Retired)

    Major General Maggie Woodward, USAF (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Dick Young, USN (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Sandra Adams, USN (Retired)

    Brigadier General Clara Adams-Ender, USA (Retired)

    Brigadier General Ricardo Aponte, USAF (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, USN (Retired)

    Brigadier General David Brahms, USMC (Retired)

    Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Retired)

    Brigadier General Julia Cleckley, USA (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Jay DeLoach, USN (Retired)

    Brigadier General John Douglass, USAF (Retired)

    Brigadier General Evelyn “Pat” Foote, USA (Retired)

    Brigadier General Judy M. Griego, NMANG (Retired) 

    Brigadier General David R. Irvine, USA (Retired)

    Brigadier General John H. Johns, USA (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Gene Kendall, USN (Retired)

    Brigadier General Thomas Kolditz, PhD, USA (Retired)

    Brigadier General Carlos E. Martinez, USAF (Retired)

    Brigadier General Ronald Rokosz, USA (Retired)

    Brigadier General John M. Schuster, USA (Retired)

    Rear Admiral Michael E. Smith, USN (Retired)

    Brigadier Paul Gregory Smith, USA (Retired)

    Brigadier General Marianne Watson, USA (Retired)

    *A 57th Officer, Rear Admiral Sandra Smith, signed this statement after its initial publication.



    Lambda Legal Says ‘See You in Court, President Trump’

    On August 5, Lambda Legal staff attorney Sasha Buchert announced that the organization, with OutServe-SLDN (https://www.outserve-sldn.org/), is preparing for legal action concerning Trump’s tweeted military trans ban.

    Buchert wrote, “I am a transgender military veteran. The move to purge transgender military personnel is dishonorable to the thousands of transgender men and women who are serving our country with courage and who are integral parts of our armed services. The safety of all service members—transgender or not—is undermined by a policy like this that distracts from the important missions they have for no valid reason. It is also a slap in the face of the leadership who have worked diligently to develop and implement the current policy which has been in place for more than a year without incident.”

    “This mean-spirited and discriminatory attack on our community is capricious, irrational and clearly driven by anti-LGBT forces in the administration who care more about harming transgender people than keeping our nation safe,” Buchert continued. “It is clearly unconstitutional.”

    Current trans service members, or trans individuals considering pursuing a military career, are asked to contact Lamba Legal via this link: lambdalegal.org/transmilitaryhelp