While Trump does a lot of things differently from his predecessors, and there will be something just as startling coming along next week1, Trump's transgender service ban is worth documenting in a bit more detail.
First off, making major communications through Twitter is something Trump has done before, and Press Secretary Sean Spicer had previously confirmed that Trump's tweets are official White House statements. However, this is the first time that a tweet served as the only, official statement from the White House to, apparently, everybody else.
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow......"
Despite the statement, it is not at all clear who Trump discussed this decision with, and it appears that this statement was a surprise to many in the military. Also, this tweet was followed with a bit over eight minutes of absolutely nothing.
During those eight minutes, people naturally wondered what was going on. Transgender troops have not been an issue for most people, and was not on anyone's watchlist of "things about to be dealt with". So this was naturally a worrying tweet. We were about to go to war with North Korea. We were about to militarize the Southern border. We were about to... ban who from the military?
Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming....
What most Americans are not saying, possibly because they do not realize it, is that the president has no clue what 'transgender' means. This is almost okay; the words trandgender and transsexual sound a lot alike, and the definitions are often different depending on what source you go to. But it's not okay to still be confused when you get to the point of banning... someone... from military service. For the record, the military often doesn't know and often doesn't care if you are transgender. The military does care if you are transsexual, as that indicates that you are probably seeking medical treatment.2
"victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
It is worth noting here that the common figure of 15,000 transgender Americans currently serving in the military is the high estimate. It's probably somewhere between 2,000 and 11,000, but may be higher. After all, most of the transgender people in America are not inclined to announce the fact, and this is probably all the more true in the military.
Much more to the point: "The Rand Corp., a federally funded think tank, has estimated that each year between 29 and 129 service members will seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy. It also estimated that extending gender transition-related health care coverage to transgender personnel would cost the military $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year, out of a yearly Pentagon budget of more than $600 billion." (-- USNews.com).
"Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs."
--Donald Trump, on Twitter.com, 1:31 PM - Jun 14, 2016.
This story may or may not be over -- no actions are currently underway to enact the ban. This comes at an extraordinarily odd time. Just after he was elected, Trump would have been able to reverse the previous policy that give transgender (yes, transgender; apparently words are hard) troops the right receive medical coverage for any treatment deemed medically necessary by their doctors. Then Defense Secretary James Mattis came in and said that he needed extra time to look things over, but that as long as the military was able to function effectively, he was okay with transgender military service. Then, earlier this month, the Republican-led House voted against banning Pentagon funding from being used for transition-related medical care. Then, James Mattis went on vacation for a week, and Trump tweeted.
It's a toss-up whether Trump will follow up on this or find something else to tweet about. Unfortunately, we'll find out shortly.
1. I should put this in context: this is already old news, which is not to say that people are not still upset about it. On the 28th, Trump announced that he was replacing White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus with John F. Kelly, and meanwhile Trump's new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci has been being quite aggressive in interviews. Also, on the 24th Trump gave a very energetic and politicized speech to the Boy Scouts at their National Jamboree, which is still generating news stories. Picking one Trump story to report on is like picking one mouse to populate a zoo.
2. Says who? Says the ICD-10.