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'An appalling attack': Trump criticised for saying transgender people can't serve in US military

It is estimated that as many as 15,000 transgender people work in the US military.

Updated 4.10pm

IN A SERIES of tweets, US President Donald Trump has announced that transgender individuals will not be able to serve in any capacity in the US military.

He said that, after consultation with his generals and military experts, he had made the decision.

“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,” he tweeted.

According to a report published in 2014 on transgender military service in the US, researchers from the Williams Institute said that transgender people have a larger representation in the military than they do among the general population.

While transgender recruits are not permitted entry, it is estimated that as many as 15,000 transgender people work in the military in the US.

The move has been criticised by many, with the National Center for Transgender Equality calling it “an egregious attack”.

In a statement, the organisation said the decision is worse than the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ US military policy, which effectively meant gay, lesbian or bisexual members did not openly disclose their sexual orientation. It was an official policy from 1994 until 2011.

The statement said:

This is an appalling attack on our service members; it is about bigotry rather than military readiness, reason or science. It is indefensible and cannot stand.

“The President wants to discard thousands of trained and skilled troops who are already serving honorably and done nothing but be honest about who they are. To turn away qualified recruits simply because of who they are is a shameful way to show our country’s gratitude to the people who serve our country.”

Public toilets 

The issue of transgender rights in America has been increasingly in the spotlight in recent months, especially over how states regulate the use of public toilets.

The Trump administration faced protests earlier this year after it reversed Obama-era federal protections that urged schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity, not the gender on their birth certificate.

Last month, the Pentagon said the five armed service branches could delay accepting transgender recruits until 1 January as they “review their accession plans and provide input on the impact to the readiness and legality of our forces”, spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement.

Chelsea Manning 

Perhaps the most famous transgender US soldier is former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, who served seven years in prison for one of the largest dumps of classified documents in US history.

Manning, who served as Bradley Manning, was initially sentenced to 35 years in prison in 2013 for leaking more than 700,000 classified documents to WikiLeaks three years earlier.

She twice tried to take her own life last year alone, before then-president Obama commuted her sentence just days before he left office in January. Manning walked free in May.

During her incarceration at the Fort Leavenworth military prison, Manning battled for – and won – the right to begin hormone treatment to begin transitioning toward her female identity.

With reporting from © AFP 2017 and Órla Ryan

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Sean Murray

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