Virginia backs Trump’s transphobic justification for transgender military ban

The commonwealth believes Trump's line that it's not a transgender ban.

Virginia confirms it will discriminate against transgender National Guard personnel
Virginia confirms it will discriminate against transgender National Guard personnel. Pictured: Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D). (Photo Credit: Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The state of Virginia has confirmed it will comply with President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban, which officially took effect last month after courts cleared the way.

Responding to an inquiry from ThinkProgress, Adjutant General Timothy Williams explained that the Virginia National Guard’s service members “must meet established Department of Defense (DOD) readiness standards,” including the expectations laid out by the discriminatory policy.

Williams proceeded to repeat the Trump administration’s description of the ban. “The new DOD policy doesn’t ban transgender individuals from service, and transgender service members may continue to serve,” he wrote. “The DOD policy states that anyone who meets military standards without special accommodations can and should be able to serve, and this includes transgender persons.”

This is incorrect. The administration’s policy explicitly requires that service members can only serve in their “biological sex.” This automatically precludes any transgender person from serving, including those who are already living in accordance with their gender identity. It also institutes a new form of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” for currently serving personnel who might come out as transgender. They will now be forced to choose between continuing their careers or receiving the medical assistance they might require to begin their transition. Transgender students completing their education at one of the military academies will also have no opportunity to serve in the military upon graduation.


Since the trans military ban took effect, five different state governors have announced that their National Guards will not abide by the ban: California, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and New Mexico. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) had not publicly commented on the ban since it took effect, but as a candidate, he came out strongly against it after Trump first announced it.

Northam’s first act as governor when he took office last year was also to issue an executive order protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination in state government. This would surely include the National Guard, of which he is commander in chief. Williams is likewise a gubernatorial appointee.

After Northam was implicated in a scandal regarding a blackface photo in his college yearbook, he pledged to compensate by prioritizing civil rights and addressing the “tremendous inequities” in Virginia. His office did not immediately respond to an inquiry as to how complying with the transgender military ban is consistent with this commitment or the executive order.


On Tuesday, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, representing Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction, unanimously approved a resolution calling on Northam to allow transgender individuals to continue serving openly in the National Guard.

“President Trump’s ban on transgender members of the Armed Forces would affect all
transgender members of the Armed Forces and force them to serve under a policy that
stigmatizes and devalues their contributions to our Nation’s defense,” the committee wrote.