In a surprising twist out of left field, President Donald J. Trump announced that transgender individuals would no longer be welcome in the military through a series of three individual tweets. His identified reasoning pointed to exceptional costs for sexual reassignment surgery (SRS) both while serving the country and after honorable discharge or retirement.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”
The announcement was met with swift, bipartisan backlash from nearly every end of the political spectrum, including both the GOP and Democrats alike.
Strangely, Trump didn’t follow the announcement with any plan, organized process, or even basic outline for how he would achieve such a goal. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, White House representative, couldn’t answer questions about exactly how the president planned to make such a change, either, saying only that transgender members of the armed forces somehow eroded military readiness and unit cohesion. She also added that the decision was military-based, and not political, though exactly what that meant wasn’t made clear.
The decision flies in the face of hard research which appears to show that transgender soldiers would have only the most minimal impact on the military’s budget as a whole.
One RAND study identified just over 6,000 potential transgender people serving in active duty; supporting their health care needs would amount to around a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in the budget. The same study also asserted that such support would have “little or no impact on unit cohesion” and “benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.”
An additional 8,000 servicemen serve in the military Reserve, and though they weren’t included in the RAND study, they, too, would be impacted by the ban.
Trump’s decision directly contradicts the study by suggesting that allowing transgender people to continue serving would indeed harm cohesion and inclusivity rather than supporting it.
Many naysayers pointed to military coverage for birth control, Viagra, and certain cosmetic surgeries as justification for the spending, suggesting that SRS coverage was the least the military could do for service people risking their lives in the line of duty.
The same individuals often identified coverage for Viagra, birth control, and other minor cosmetic surgeries as a precedent for coverage, though most experts agree that SRS doesn’t qualify as a cosmetic surgery because gender dysphoria is a recognized condition.
Supporters of the ban pointed to a lack of finances in general as an excellent motivating factor, suggesting that the military should never cover any elective surgeries, period, for any people serving in the military at all. Many called it a “waste of resources.” If the military enacted such a ban, it would include tummy tucks post-pregnancy, breast reductions, post-mastectomy implants, cosmetic nasal adjustments after breaks, and many other non-essential surgeries.
Supporters also countered the mentions of Viagra, birth control, and elective surgeries by pointing out that the government shouldn’t be paying for them, either.
Still, other supporters belittled and insulted transgender people, suggesting that they supported any ban that kept “freaks” out of the military, or stating that transgender people were mentally ill, and thus, would only endanger the lives of other servicemen in the line of duty.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was one of the first organizations to call the decision “ridiculous,” vowing to fight it to the end if necessary.
“Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The President is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country.”
Republican Senator John McCain criticized Trump’s decision to tweet the information with little clarification, suggesting it was cryptic and confusing. He also indicated that such policy adjustments were “inappropriate” at the current point in time and that anyone willing and able to serve should, in fact, be supported in doing so.
“We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.”
Transgender members of the armed forces currently on active duty and those who have already retired from the force also spoke out, calling the announcement an insult to those who have already risked their lives for the United States.
California Congressman Ted Lieu likened the move to “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell,” suggesting that people would go into hiding once again jeopardizing the troops as a whole. He also suggested that, if the ban goes through, it will impact thousands of Americans directly.
It isn’t yet known when, if, or how the Trump administration will push the ban through, or even if it will receive enough support to reach legislation. If it does succeed, several thousand servicemen could potentially find themselves without work.
Navy Seal Team Six veteran Kristin Beck, who is transgender herself, challenged Trump to “say it to her face,” suggesting that she “defended for everyone” during her time in the service. Beck served 13 different tours of duty before reassignment to technological development at the Pentagon.