By Madeleine Neal
When President Trump took to Twitter on July 26 to announce his plan to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, party lines were blurred.
The Iowa Democratic Party released a statement from a group of Iowans identifying as transgender. The members said Trump’s attempt to exclude patriots who want to serve and protect the United States because they are transgender is an act of cowardice.
“Numerous studies have shown that allowing transgender Americans to serve has absolutely no impact on readiness. This is a grave insult to our active transgender service members and all those aspiring to join our military,” the group said in a statement. “It is also an insult to all those currently serving with transgender service members who are executing their jobs with the same excellence they were before President Obama opened the service to those identifying as transgender.”
The statement was composed by Devin Kelly, the chair of the Stonewall Caucus for the Iowa Democrats; Alex Anderson, state Affirmative Action chair for the Democrats; Austin Wadle, a transgender-rights activist and student at Grinnell College; and U.S. Army Reserves Sgt. Jack Schuler, a former corporal in the Marine Corps.
The group said America is stronger when it can live as a community of people with different backgrounds.
“It may be difficult at times, but we are proud to live in a place where we can have the conversation, where we can work with people to increase understanding. We will keep working to make America a safe place for transgender individuals to live and serve,” the statement said. “We hope all those who believe in the fundamentally American promises of acceptance and opportunity will join us.”
Trump’s statement triggered a divide between Republicans. A statement from the office of Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Ernst served alongside fellow service members from all different backgrounds and parts of the county during her time in the National Guard.
“She believes what is most important is making sure service members can meet the physical training standards and the willingness to defend our freedoms and way of life,” said the statement. “While she believes taxpayers shouldn’t cover the costs associated with a gender-reassignment surgery, Americans who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be afforded that opportunity.”
Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel, an executive director for One Iowa, a leading LGBTQ advocacy group, said transgender people already serve in the U.S. military and do not cause “tremendous medical costs and disruption,” as Trump alleged in his tweet.
“In fact, according to studies by the Williams Institute and the Veterans Health Administration, they are far more likely to serve in the military than the general population,” Hoffman-Zinnel said in a statement. “President Trump’s announcement won’t change that.”
Hoffman-Zinnel said Trump’s proclamation will only reinstate a blanket ban that prevents transgender people from what he called bringing their whole selves to their mission and from receiving basic support from the nation they disproportionately fight to defend.
“Our transgender service people and veterans deserve far better than this, and we are deeply disappointed and angered by the disrespect to which President Trump, Rep. Steve King, and our nation’s policies have subjected them,” Hoffman-Zinnel said in a statement.