Wednesday With hi, in his infinite wisdom, the President of the United States decided to ban transgender soldiers from serving in the armed forces. Via Twitter
This decision is disastrous for many reasons. First, this command came via Twitter in the midst of the Pentagon working on adding transgender forces. This order carries no real weight unless followed by action, but does throw into discord the rank and file soldiers. Consequently, many in the military have had to reassure the trans soldiers already serving that their colleagues have their back.
Second, and in my mind more importantly, this threatens the safety of the estimated 7,000 train soldiers happily and dutifully serving their nation. What happens to them? are they forced into a closet? But what happens if people know they are trans? Are their jobs essentially over? Not without irony, this confusion harms battle readiness more than the presence of trans soldiers, the precise reason that the President felt the need to inflict this ban. Also: If the administration chooses to keep current trans soldiers but ban future soldiers, does that raise constitutional questions in regard to Equal Access?
What is especially pernicious is the alleged motive for the move: Trump wanted to appease his base as well as shore up money for his racist wall. With his incessant attacks on Attorney General Sessions in an open attempt to make him self-deport from the Justice Department, the President has caused a rift not just with the senate, but also with his base. It is hard not to read the timing of this as throwing raw meat to an agitated base in an attempt to mollify them while he turns up the heat on Sessions.
Another bonus? President Trump gets to placate some Freedom Caucus members who were concerned about the medical costs of trans soldiers and get some money for his wall. So wonderful to see that someone that said he would be great for the LGBT community use his power to harm the trans community, one of the most vulnerable of the LGBT+ community, in order to inflict more harm on another marginalized and vulnerable community: undocumented immigrants.
Let’s pause here to discuss what at first blush might seem like a real issue: medical costs for transgender soldiers. It would seem reasonable to suggest that, if the costs were truly burdensome, that the Pentagon should be off the hook. However this argument falls apart relatively easily.
Citizens serving in the armed forces are entitled to healthcare. This means that the government assists people with their medical needs. It also serves a national security purpose for soldiers to be in top health and condition physically, emotionally, and psychologically. Allowing trans soldiers to transition while in the service would improve their mental, emotional and psychological help.
There will also not be a glut of trans people rushing to enlist to try to get coverage. Soldiers would have to go through tests and bootcamp, a high mark for many to reach in general. Also, the responsibilities entailed with enlisting are important and many do not feel called to serve, regardless of the cost savings should they enlist.
But what about these numbers? Many conservatives have ginned up fervor over the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars spent on each service member. Well… not so fast. The overall Pentagon Healthcare budget is $49.3 billion, 586,804% more than transition related healthcare. An estimated $6.27 billion will be spent on active duty soldier care, with a pith $8.4 million spent on trans healthcare. But if those numbers don’t fire the point home, consider this: the cost of a SINGLE F-35 plane is 984% higher than trans healthcare and the cost of a single Littoral Combat Ship is 5,590% larger than trans healthcare. If the spendthrift Freedom Caucus members want to cut costs, lets get rid of one ship.
It is good then, that this decree has been met with condemnation not just from the left, but from the right. Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services committee, Senator Joni Ernst (IA), a military veteran, and Orrin Hatch, the second highest ranked Republican Senator all spoke out against the outright ban. And there has been some concern in the military itself, and many branches will not act until more information is offered to them. Hopefully Congress and the Pentagon can help persuade the President that this is the wrong thing to do. Though, unfortunately I doubt it.
To all trans service members and trans people: thank you for your service. We see you. And we will fight with you every step of the way. Stay Strong, you are the best of our country and deserve our commendation not scorn.
Some information and statistics taken from the following: