On Wednesday, President Trump tweeted out a statement that sent shockwaves through the transgender and LGBTQ communities, particularly those in military families, banning all transgender individuals from the military.
One of these families are the Brewers, currently living on Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, VA, who woke up to a devastating message from the president.
“I’m completely beside myself trying to think how a tweet can change your life so drastically,” said Amanda Brewer, whose husband serves in th military. “Literally I was driving home and my son was like, ‘Trump just tweeted something.’ He read the tweet and I just lost it. He doesn’t understand that what he’s saying affects people that drastically, and he doesn’t care.”
One of Brewer’s children is a transgender female who has been going through her transition process for almost two years. Jennifer, 14, was the first child from a military family to receive an implant. She also takes hormones.
“We’ve seen just how devastating [Trump's tweets] can be,” Brewer said. “He, in an instant, can stop my child from being able to transition, which is devastating. We want our child to be herself. Jennifer just said today, it’s really sad to have to get up and go march and go speak and go talk, just for the ability to exist.”
After finding out the news and telling her daughter what the President had tweeted, Brewer sent an email to their military doctor. As the family receives military benefits, they use the military insurance service, Tricare.
“[Our doctor] said he’s very worried,” Brewer said. “He said he doesn’t know, he’s at a loss, he’s not exactly sure what today means, or how to process it. But at this moment, things are okay for Jen so we have to be cautiously aware that at any moment, they can no longer be.”
Brewer not only worries about what the ban could mean for her child and trans military members, but how this could affect the recent debate over health care. Although the Hartzler amendment was narrowly defeated by the House on July 13, Brewer worries that Trump’s statement could still potentially end Jennifer’s health care.
“The suicide rates for trans people is over 46 percent,” Brewer said, which was also reported by the Williams Institute. “We’ve been very lucky. Last year, Jennifer did attempt to take her life, and we’ve been very lucky through her transition that she’s become a much happier kiddo. She’s outgoing, she’s excited for life, she can just be herself. To see that at any moment that can be taken away, it can’t give her that peace of mind that she’s had for the last year.”
Brewer worries that children like Jennifer will be at a much higher risk for depression and consequential death by suicide.
“Imagining someone who says, ‘You’re no longer allowed to exist as yourself,’ and then to be 14 and not fully able to process, but also overwhelmingly able to process what exactly just happened,” she said.
Part of President Trump’s statement claimed they cannot include trans individuals in the military for cost reasons, which confused the Brewer family. Transgender medical costs pale in comparison to other medications on which the military spends, such as Viagra.
According to the Rand Corporation, transgender related medications and procedures cost anywhere between $2.4 million to $8.4 million per year. “For operating a ship, it is about $2.5 million per day, to put it in perspective,” said Brewer.
Many of Brewer’s friends are also worried about the tweets, as around 150,000 transgender Americans currently serve or are veterans of the military.
“They showed up to work as they do every other day, and now all of a sudden there’s a tweet that says they’re no longer allowed to be in the military,” she said. “None of them have any idea exactly what they’re supposed to be doing right now. Some of them are deployed, some of them are there, they’re all over the world. They’re at a loss, at this moment.”
Although there has been no indication the Twitter statement has taken any immediate effect, active duty military members worry what will happen tomorrow. One transgender male soldier, a friend of Brewer’s, asked to remain anyonymous, but had the following to say in response to President Trump’s tweet:
“I’m concerned about our Commander in Chief using tweets to instate sweeping policy changes,” he said. “I’m worried about an uptick in harassment, violence and suicide for trans members and our vets. I’m worried as a trans male, what the current administration will do to my health care. The fact that this was released over Twitter combined with the fact that Trump didn’t serve in the military is unthinkable. We are not safe with Trump as our Commander in Chief.”
Another transgender male soldier also wanted to share his thoughts, but has again has asked not to be identified.
“[He] just wants you to know that he is very angry right now and he’s a decorated, multi-deployment officer that has integrated seamlessly and loves serving this country,” Brewer explained. “He has served in Iraq and in Kosovo, and he wants to be able to serve his country and fulfill his time on duty.”
Brewer, her family and the entire military transgender community will wait in anxiety without truly knowing the full impact of the President’s statement.
“I think at this moment, the entire country is trying to figure out what this means specifically,” she said. “Do they get to go to work tomorrow? Are they supposed to be processing actions? What are they supposed to be doing now?”
For the time being, all they can do is wait for the next tweet.