Trump signed a new order on Friday to ban transgender troops from serving in the army after his original ban reportedly failed to comply with federal law. According to the New York Times, the policy recommendation reads that “transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service”, but adds that the Pentagon will be able to make exceptions.
Last July, Trump threw everyone off guard when he took to Twitter to state that the US government would not “accept or allow” transgender people to serve in the military; effectively banning their service in a rollback of an Obama-era decision to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military.
Over three tweets, with no explanation or official follow up from the Pentagon, he wrote: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”.
As pointed out by writer and performance artist Ray Filar in Dazed, when talking about trans troops in the military, it's important to recognise arguments around demilitarisation. “It's possible to oppose the anti-transness of the ban while also standing for the abolition of the military. To say, as some have, that the key thing here is legal equality and that anything else is radicaler-than-thou window dressing is to miss a key point about how transphobia, nationalism and violent imperialism co-constitute each other.”
Even so, it's clear that in practice this ban goes beyond the medical and monetary reasoning Trump attaches it to – it is a symbolic gesture aimed at appeasing those who hold transphobic views and making transgender people's lives more difficult. As the American Civil Liberties Union put it, the most recent iteration of the ban is “transphobia masquerading as policy”.