Senior British military figures have spoken in support of transgender people serving in the Armed Forces after Donald Trump announced that the trans community will be barred from the US forces.
Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock, who as the Second Sea Lord is among the Royal Navy’s top brass, tweeted he was “so proud” of the UK’s transgender personnel who “bring diversity to our Royal Navy”.
And the UK’s Ministry of Defence said LGBT+ members “play a vital role in keeping our nation safe”, adding that it would “continue to welcome people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including transgender personnel”.
Sentiment in London is in stark contrast to Washington, despite the long-standing friendship between the two countries, where Trump’s administration wants to reverse Barack Obama’s move to open up the military to transgender people.
The US President tweeted on Wednesday that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail”.
In response, Rear Admiral Alex Burton, an LGBT+ champion in the Royal Navy, wrote he was “proud we are not going this way”.
It prompted a follow-up from Vice Admiral Woodcock, who questioned whether opponents of the trans community being in the military would themselves be willing to serve their country. It’s unclear whether the barb is aimed at Trump, who received five deferments from serving in Vietnam.
“So proud of our Transgender personnel. They bring diversity to our Royal Navy and I will always support their desire to serve their country.
“I suspect many who doubt the abilities of our diverse service personnel might be more reluctant to serve than they are to comment.”
When one Twitter user said they would be “surprised” if there was one transgender person in the UK military, he responded:
“I know several personally. People aren’t numbers so I won’t be counting.”
Ex-RAF pilot Ayla Holdom on Wednesday told LBC radio how she was supported by the Armed Forces when she transitioned while serving in 2010.
She said: “Luckily I was supported by my employer. Not just because it was the right thing for me to do as a person - but because it was the right thing for the organisation.
“They had invested in me, they want me to perform at my best and that was absolutely what I needed to make that happen.”
She added: “Our job in the military is to be professional, it is to do our job well, it’s to work for our unit to achieve whatever goals and orders we have.
“That is fundamental to why we are there and what we are doing. Coming out for me was to enable that.
“Not just for me but for all of my colleagues as well and that was fundamental to everything.”
During Trump’s election campaign he claimed he was the better candidate for lesbian, gay, transgender Americans than his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton. The administration has yet to reveal who exactly the ban extends to or how a ban would affect those serving right now.
An MoD spokesperson said: “US military recruitment policy is a matter for the US and is not something we would comment on.
“We are clear that all LGBT+ members of our Armed Forces play a vital role in keeping our nation safe.
“We will continue to welcome people from a diverse range of backgrounds, including transgender personnel.”
In the US, Kasia Celeste, an openly transgender US Navy sailor, told HuffPost US she was “pissed off”. “A lot of us are scared and angry because we all signed up to do the same job,” she said. “Who has the right to say you can’t fight for your country?”
Kristin Beck is a retired Navy SEAL whose 20 years of service included more than a dozen deployments, a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, and time on the esteemed SEAL Team 6.
She said: “I’m not pretty, I’m not a movie star, I’m a retired Navy SEAL. ... I fought for America. As a president, he should be fighting for and defending every American. I’m an American. Why not fight for me?”