Coast Guard Commandant ‘Will Not Break Faith’ on Commitment to Transgender Service Members

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Photo of Adm. Paul F. Zukunft, the 25th commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Photo By Petty Officer Patrick , USCG

The Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, Admiral Paul Zukunft, says he remains committed to supporting the small number of openly transgender members of the Coast Guard following President Trump’s tweet last week calling for a ban against transgender individuals from serving in the military in any capacity.

Admiral Zukunft’s comments were made Tuesday during a Q&A session at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), where Admiral Zukunft discussed future priorities for the Coast Guard. During the session, a member of the audience asked Zukunft about President Trump’s tweets regarding the military’s transgender policy and how the Coast Guard would respond.

Admiral Zukunft said the first thing the Coast Guard did upon learning of the tweets was reach out to the thirteen transgendered members of the Coast Guard who have come out under President Obama’s June 2016 mandate that allowed transgender troops to serve openly in the U.S. military.

In fact, Admiral Zukunft said he personally reached out to Lt Talyor Miller, who was featured last week in an article on the Washington Post. “Now if you’ve read that story, Taylor’s family has disowned her,” Zukunft said. “Her family is the United States Coast Guard. And I told Taylor, ‘I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you, and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith’. That is our commitment to our people right now. Very small numbers, but all of them are doing meaningful Coast Guard work, today.”

Earlier in his response, Admiral Zukunft said he also consulted with then-Secretary of Homeland Security, John Kelly, now Trump’s Chief of Staff, as well as Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, regarding Trump’s tweets. 

According to a 2016 RAND report, there are an estimated 2,450 active-duty transgender troops and about 1,510 in the reserve, although LGBT advocacy groups say the number could be as many as 15,000.

As of today, the Trump Administration has not provided official notice to any of the military branches about implementing the transgender ban.