Advocates in Long Island’s LGBT community and demonstrators in New York City pushed back Wednesday against President Donald Trump’s move to ban transgender people from the military, vowing to fight the policy reversal.
The change to accept transgender people serving openly in the military was in the process of being implemented after it was authorized in the last year of former President Barack Obama’s administration.
But the transgender community’s gain appeared to be undone Wednesday in a pair of tweets by Trump, who said the country’s Armed Forces need to be focused on victory “and cannot be burdened with the tremendous costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
In the city, more than 100 protesters gathered outside the Army recruiting center in Times Square, with some holding signs that read “resist” and “we object” as a stream of people took to a podium, including City Council members and transgender military veterans.
“When I read his tweets, it hit me hard,” said Dash Porter, 18, a student from Astoria who recently came out as transgender. “So we’re going to fight back and do what we have to do.”
Long Island members of the nonprofit LGBT Network, including two transgender people who are veterans, gathered at their Woodbury office to condemn the change.
“These cowardly, disgraceful and un-American comments by President Trump, attacking thousands of brave transgender service members who protect our country every day, are just another shameful distraction from a failed administration,” said David Kilmnick, the organization’s president and chief executive officer.
Thousands of transgender people currently serve in the military, he said, “so the question isn’t about whether to have trans service members. The question is whether we treat them fairly and with dignity.”
Joanne Borden, a North Woodmere resident and transgender woman who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, said she “kept her mouth shut” about her gender identity when in uniform, and believes it should not be that way for the younger generation.
“I know a great many transgender women who served in Korea and the swamps of Vietnam,” said Borden, 91. “Now many ‘TGs’ are not good enough to face death and perhaps die for their country, are not good enough to be who they are.”
The policy reversal will send a terrible message to vulnerable youth and discourage some from volunteering to serve, Borden said, adding, “They should be able to be themselves.”
Members of the LGBT Network said they plan to join with others Friday at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood to protest against Trump, who plans to visit Long Island that day. The demonstration, scheduled for 12:30 p.m., also is aimed against the president’s policies on immigration and health care.
However, the lobbying group New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, based in upstate Spencerport, praised Trump’s decision, calling it “a victory for common sense and decency, and for military preparedness.”
The Rev. Jason J. McGuire, the group’s executive director, said in a statement: “Persons who wish to serve the nation in the Armed Forces will have a simple and fair choice to make: refrain from adopting ‘transgender’ identities and behaviors, or refrain from serving in the military.”
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo was among New York elected officials and advocacy groups who voiced disgust with Trump’s announced policy change.
Cuomo condemned the president’s directive as “wrong, intolerant and a giant slide backwards in the fight for equal rights.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she will introduce legislation to fight “to overturn this discriminatory decision.”
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said the president showed he doesn’t value the sacrifices of transgender people in the military. “Any American who’s willing to put their lives on the line to serve our country should be thanked for it. I don’t care if you’re a man or woman, straight or gay or transgender — if you want to serve and you’re fit to serve, you should be welcome to serve,” she said. “That’s really all there is to it.”
At the protest in Times Square, West Village resident Maggie Low, 60, an actor, said she already was fed up with Trump, but Wednesday’s tweets “got me angry enough to come out and yell about it.”
“He’s chipping away at our civil rights, and we need to start calling it what it is: fascism,” Low said. “We need to mobilize people to fight back when this happens.”
With Lexie Schapitl, Alison Fox and Alex Bazeley