BY BRIANA SPINA
Back in July, President Trump sent the country into yet another state of division via Twitter. His target this time? The transgender community. Specifically, the noble and brave ones who have or are currently serving in our country’s armed forces. He sent the announcement via twitter that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U. S. Military” in a slew of three vague and sudden less than one hundred and forty character messages. Though Twitter is a favorite tool of the President, these tweets did not count as official White House policy. It is all too easy to remember this and dismiss these tweets as just Trump trying to reel in his socially conservative base, but this time Trump has put action behind his words. Trump recently signed a memo giving the Department of Defense six months to construct and enact an official ban on transgenders in the military, though he has not given veritable justification for doing so and is reinforcing discrimination against transgender Americans.
The core of Trump’s fallacious argument is that transgender people have caused a “disruption” through serving in the United State’s Military. To provide some historical context, transgender people have been serving in the military in secrecy for years. It was not until 2016 under President Barack Obama that transgender individuals were allowed to serve openly. Since then, statistics estimate that there are anywhere from 2,500 to 15,500 transgender troops. The actual range is so broad because many still shield their gender identities. The Research and Development Corporation, RAND, conducted a study just last year to measure the potential effects of transgender people serving in the armed forces. After surveying eighteen different countries, the study decisively concluded that there is, “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness.” Yet, Trump and his unnamed “experts” posit that transgender individuals are causing issues that prevent the United States from “focus[ing].” This scenario is reminiscent of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—the restriction on gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members to keep their sexual orientations a secret, or else face dishonorable discharge. When Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, there was a massive wave of LGBTQ soldiers who came out of hiding or reenlisted after being ousted. There were significantly more of them than the number of transgender people in the service, and even then, no “disruptions” occurred. It should be evident to the government that allowing transgender service members to continue serving their country as their true selves will not lead the United States farther from a, to quote the President’s tweet, “decisive and overwhelming victory.”
In the series of tweets, Trump also cited the “tremendous medical costs” of taking care of transgender individuals as one of his reasons, but a closer look at the military budget invalidates this indefinite claim. Medical care for transgender service members costs about two to eight million dollars. At first glance, that does seem like a hefty sum, but it is practically nothing in relation to the Pentagon’s six hundred billion dollar budget. To put it in a percentage, the cost is less than 0.01 percent of the overall allotment. The argument over whether or not taxpayers should fund procedures such as hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgery has been frequently debated in Washington. However, the cost is so low compared to other types of healthcare that has always been provided to service members, that private citizens will barely feel the financial impact of keeping transgenders in the military. And since these people are fighting for our country, shouldn’t we honor their efforts by ensuring that they are healthy and content in their own skin? Besides, the government spends eighty million—that’s ten times as much as the total cost of transgender care—on Viagra. If it was truly an issue of military funds, the logic follows in this case that the government should ban all men from serving in the military, right? No, of course not, that would be strategically unwise and definitively hateful to discriminate against an entire population within the military because of who they are as human beings. Read that sentence again, Mr. President.