‘I am so glad we are not going this way’: UK military chiefs hit back at Trump’s transgender ban

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Donald Trump announced that the US military would no longer accept transgender people.
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Chip Somodevilla/Getty

British military chiefs have hit back at Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from serving in the US military.

In a series of tweets posted on Wednesday, Trump said that his government would not allow transgender people to serve “in any capacity,” a decision he said was taken on the advice of US generals and military experts.

However, several high-ranking officials in the British military do not agree, and spoke out against Trump’s ban.

The second-most senior officer in the Royal Navy,Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, said he “will always support” transgender troops in Britain:

Rear Admiral Alex Burton, one of the navy’s most senior officers and a spokesman on LGBT issues, also spoke out, tweeting that he was “so glad” the UK isn’t implementing a Trump-style ban:

The most senior openly transgender person in the army, Captain Hannah Winterbourne, also expressed solidarity, tweeting a BBC article which quoted Woodcock and Burton:

The Royal Navy was ranked 82nd and the British Army 99th in LGBT charity Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list in 2017.

In February, Lieutenant-General Patrick Sanders, Commander Field Army, praised the inclusion of LGBT personnel in the British Army, whom he said made the Army “stronger and more effective.”

“Only if individuals are free to be themselves can we release the genie of their potential, for the greater good,” he wrote.

Trooping the Colour parade 2017

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The British Army was recognised as one of the 100 most inclusive employers for LGBT members.
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Chris Jackson/Getty

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman told the BBC that Trump’s tweets were “an American issue.”

The department said it “will continue to welcome people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including transgender personnel.”

All transgender people considered for service are subject to the same entry standards as any other candidate, and are treated as an individual of their acquired gender, according to the British Army’s website.

Trump’s claim that the ban was necessary because of “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail” – has proved difficult to substantiate.

According to a 2016 analysis by the US think tank the RAND Corporation, military budgets would only need to rise by $2.4 to $8.4 million (£1.8 to £6.4 million) to accommodate all transgender personnel.

That figure is equivalent to 0.0014% of Trump’s total defence budget proposal, according to analysis by Bloomberg.

There are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender service members actively serving in the US army, the RAND report noted.

The MoD has not made public the number of transgender personnel in the UK, though unnamed sources told the BBC that the figure is fewer than 10.