On Wednesday morning, President Trump tweeted that after "consultation" with military generals and experts, he had arrived to the decision to bar all transgender individuals from working in the U.S. military in "any capacity." The announcement sent shockwaves through the country; politicians from both parties, activists, and celebrity figures alike swiftly condemned the decision. On Wednesday evening, Democratic senator and Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth sounded off on Trump's military transgender ban, recounting that when she was "bleeding to death" after an attack, the gender identity and sexual orientation who saved her "didn't matter."
In his tweets, Trump said that the "United States Government will not accept or allow [...] transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military." The reasoning for disallowing transgender individuals from serving was apparently the "tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Duckworth, who represents Illinois, shared her thoughts on the ban with CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Cooper asked Duckworth if she thought Trump's claim held any weight about transgender people possibly disrupting unit cohesion in the military. Duckworth responded, "I absolutely do not believe that, Anderson. We have had tens of thousands transgender people served over the course of our military's history." Duckworth went on to say, "If anything, what [Trump] is doing is disruptive to unit cohesion."
Trump's tweet claiming that transgender individuals carry a "tremendous" cost for the American military was also criticized by Duckworth. The senator brought up one study on the cost of transgender health service and how it amounted to $5.6 million compared to the colossal $40 million spent on Viagra. "If you want to talk about costs, there are other places where you could cut," Duckworth said.
The Illinois senator who lost both legs due to a rocket-propelled grenade referenced her time as a military member who served in the Iraq War. "When I was bleeding to death," Duckworth told Cooper, "in my helicopter after that RPG ripped through the cockpit of the aircraft, and an American came to save my life, it didn’t matter to me if they were gay, if they were straight, if they were transgendered, it only mattered that they wore the uniform of the United States military, and I will always remember that."
Duckworth also said that she believed that Trump's swift decision to ban transgender individuals from serving within American military ranks was done in order to "appeal" to his political base. The senator vowed to fight for the rights of the transgender community in the wake of Trump's new ban.
So far, it is not clear what general procedure will be taken for transgender individuals on active duty. But according to Pentagon spokesman Navy captain Jeff Davis, the Pentagon was treating Trump's controversial tweet-series as "new guidance." "We will provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future," Davis said.