Former military who are transgender worry about ban

LGBT

Jacquelyn Atkinson, Sheri Swokowski and Fred Karger speak at a panel discussion during the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month Celebration held at Commander, Naval Air Forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stephanie Smith)

MADISON, Wis. — President Donald Trump’s decision to reinstate a ban on transgender service members has left some Wisconsin military personnel who transitioned feeling disappointed and even fearful of what may come next.

Trump said the decision was made to prevent disruption and cut back on medical costs, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

A study last year by RAND Corp. found that transgender military personnel have little to no impact on military readiness or medical costs.

Sheri Swokowski of DeForest served in the Wisconsin National Guard for nearly 25 years. She waited until after she retired from the military to make her gender transition.

“I’m very disappointed and surprised that the leader of our military would say that transgender military personnel were not capable of defending this country, something they’ve been doing since the 1700s,” Swokowski said.

She’s since gotten a job as a civilian senior analyst at the Pentagon. Swokowski said if the civilian side can work with transgender individuals, the military should be able to do the same.

Darla Lannert, of Oregon, was in the Navy during the Vietnam war. She said she’s worried that Trump’s decision will just be the first of harsher measures aimed at transgender people.

“With the decisions that were made … we’re not progressing as a country, we’re going backward,” Lannert said. “It’s just pure discrimination and certainly doesn’t have anything to do with cost.”

Lannert began receiving hormone replacement therapy in 2009 at a Veterans Administration facility. But she said the treatment cost was minuscule when compared to treatment she received this year after suffering a heart attack.

Steve Starkey, executive director of OutReach LGBT Community Center in Madison, said studies show that there’s no downside to the military accepting gay or transgender people.

“Trump campaigned on being an LGBT-friendly president,” Starkey said. “He stood on stage with a big rainbow flag and vowed to be an LGBT-friendly president, and he’s done exactly the opposite.”

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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