3News: Trump’s morning tweets have local LGBTQ vets asking, ‘What’s next?’

Sep 22, 2017
In The News

With three simple tweets Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump reversed an Obama-era policy of letting transgender Americans serve openly in the U.S. Armed Forces.

“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 US 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,” Trump tweeted.

What the president did stings for Marine and transgender vet Blue Montana, who did multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 “To think that there are actually trans people right now in Iraq and Afghanistan defending his right to discriminate against us just really doesn't make any sense to me,” says Montana, whose sexual orientation got him kicked out of the Air Force in 2005. He now works as the Transgender Program Manager at The Center, Las Vegas' headquarters for the local LGBTQ community.

“Is this also going to lead to trying to repeal ‘Don't Ask Don't Tell?’ ” Montana asks.

Trump now puts America's gay, lesbian and trans soldiers on edge.

“Honestly, I wasn't too surprised because I can tell this administration isn't very LGBTQ friendly,” says Air Force veteran Frankie Perez, who graduated from Cheyenne and served four years on active duty and six years in the reserves. Perez has successfully transitioned from female to male and says he always wanted to serve his country.

“We literally go to recruiting centers just like everyone else and sign ourselves up to serve,” he told me.

Estimates put America's transgender fighting force between 2,500 and 15,000 active duty soldiers. In Nevada, there is one openly transgender member of the Nevada Army National Guard, Sgt. Sam Hunt.

“As of today, my supervisors and commanders have not informed me of any changes to my status as a male soldier in the Nevada Army National Guard. Until told otherwise, I will continue serving this nation and state, as I have since 2009,” Hunt, who lives in Northern Nevada, said Wednesday in a statement.

The president says transgender soldiers are a disruption, and at American Legion Post 8 in Las Vegas, some of the vets there agree. They see the Obama administration’s openness to transgender soldiers as social experimentation that has no place in the military.

“I’m sorry, but when you go into any branch of the service you are a “G-I” – government issue,” says Vietnam vet Ferguson Stabley. “There is no more individuality. You take orders, you obey commands and that’s all there is.”

Other vets said transgender Americans would join the service simply to have the government pay for their transition from one sex to the other. “And that can cost the taxpayers money,” said a Vietnam vet named Loren, who declined to provide his last name.

Trump, in his tweet, mentioned what he called “tremendous medical costs”, although the Military Times, citing a Rand Corporation study, reported that health care for transgender troops would run about $8 million per year, “a small fraction of the $600 billion-plus Pentagon budget.”

The president’s action did not sit well with some of Nevada’s delegation in Washington.

“Bigotry is disruptive – not the thousands of brave trans men and women currently serving in our armed forces,” said Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nevada.

“Senator Heller believes that anyone who wants to join the military should be able to and he has the utmost respect and appreciation for all of those who stand up to serve our country,” said Megan Taylor, the Communications Director for Heller, Nevada’s Republican in the U.S. Senate.

Post 8 may be Trump country, but even here you find other views. I met Richard Reinhardt, whose father served in World War II.

“As far as I'm concerned, a bullet kills the transgender person as well as a straight person, and if they're brave enough to volunteer, let them serve,” Reinhardt says.