(SAVANNAH) Fallout continues a day after President Donald Trumps tweets his plan to ban transgendered individuals from serving in the U-S military. Advocates for the LGBT community in Savannah say such a ban would be a huge step backwards for people who have only recently found equal footing in our armed forces. Some, like Michael Ploski, Chairman of the Board for the First City Network, says Trumps tweet feels like a physical assault “To those trans people that are in the military right now, who are in a lot of cases, risking their lives for our country, this is a horrible horrible slap in the face basically saying you’re not human, you can’t serve.” Ploski said.
Transgender advocates in the Hostess City agree with Ploski. Evonia Pollard and Manzana Bryant are Co-Founders of Transgender Empowerment Education, LLC. (TEE) Both say decades of work will be unraveled if trump’s ban is enforced. “It’s putting us back in the Stone Age and what is it saying to our youth? That we come so far and came so far to be who we are to these kids nowadays and now all of a sudden they going to have to go back and choose what they want to be, who they want to be they’re going to have to be conformative? It’s forcing the next generation back into the closet.” Bryant said.
The closet is where Candace Hardenett said the military wanted her to live when she became a Marine in 2003. Hardenett works as a pastor with the Agape Empowerment Ministries right now, but as a lesbian in the military, she entered the military under the “don’t ask-don’t tell” years. “It was scary, it was scary being a lesbian and him, being told that am if I was caught I would be court-martialed.” Hardenett said. Some estimates say there are more than 15-thousand transgendered troops in the U.S. military. A ban will basically remove an entire division of troops. Pastor Hardenett says transgender troops, like everyone serving, offer the most sacred of sacrifices that can be placed on the altar of our democracy. “Transgender people are putting their lives on the line. They may die. ” said Hardenett.
Transgendered service members are already reaching out to TEE for advice. Pollard says she’s talked with several, active duty members of the military here in the Coastal Empire who wonder what they should do. “I say first of all, he cannot just say you out. He can just bring the paperwork to the table. I say and second of all, if he want you out then that means he going to put his sons in there? He have never fought in the war.” Pollard says she told those callers. She adds that transgendered people have been surprised by Trump’s tweet because he had a different position about their community when he was courting their vote. “He made that comment about Kaitlyn Jenner, you can use my bathroom now all of a sudden, in Trump Towers, now he’s changing his thoughts, oh after he got our votes now he wants to change?” said Pollard.
President Trump cites healthcare costs as one of the reasons for his ban. It is expenses related to paying for gender transition surgeries and the hormone replacement therapies some transgendered troops require. Some conservatives estimates say it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade. Democrat Nancy Pelosi says those numbers are way too high. In a statement, Pelosi pointed out Trump’s decision came on the same day in 1948 that President Harry S. Truman signed the executive order desegregating the military. The California Democrat called Trump’s action “a cruel and arbitrary decision designed to humiliate transgender Americans who stepped forward to serve our country.” She said a study commissioned by the department found the cost of providing medically necessary transition-related care would be $2 million to $8 million a year, a small amount from what the Pentagon spends on military care. She said the “disgusting ban” will weaken the military and the nation it defends. She said Trump’s conduct is not driven by “honor, decency or national security, but by raw prejudice.”
Thursday, the Associated Press is reporting nation’s top military officer says U.S. policy on transgender individuals serving in uniform has not – and will not – change until Defense Secretary Jim Mattis receives the president’s policy direction and Mattis determines how to implement it. General Joseph Dunford is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford made the statement in a note Thursday to all service chiefs, commanders and enlisted military leaders. AP obtained a copy of the note. Dunford is responding to Trump’s announcement on Twitter Wednesday that the government will not allow or accept transgender people in the military “in any capacity.” Dunford says that for now, “we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”
Local LGBT advocates in Savannah say they are gearing up to fight any effort to enact the President’s proposal to ban transgendered people in the U.S. military. “The squeaky wheel is the one that gets oiled. And being vocal about this and staying vocal about this is gonna get positive action hopefully.” Ploski said.