As accustomed as I’ve become to hearing about Donald Trump’s controversial tweet-storms, I was stunned by his statements Wednesday morning banning transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military “in any capacity.” It was a surprising step backward from the progress the LGBTQ+ community has been fighting to make. In fact, it reverses the policy put in place by the Obama administration last year, which allowed transgender people to serve openly in the military.
The justification provided by Trump was the high financial cost with which transgender service members “burden” the military. As many have pointed out, this isn’t an adequate, or even accurate, excuse. Trump’s announcement was devoid of any statistical data supporting this assertion (perhaps due to the less than scholarly outlet with which he chose to announce the decision).
Last year, however, RAND Corporation published a study looking at the cost of openly transgender individuals on the U.S. Department of Defense. Researchers found, despite the high number of transgender service members, “only a subset will seek gender transition-related treatment,” and such costs remain relatively low.
The study predicted transgender-related medical costs would cause an “increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04–0.13 percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.” This is, therefore, obviously not the “tremendous medical cost” Trump proposes.
The same day as his announcement, the Washington Post pointed out the military spends ten times this amount on erectile dysfunction medication, with half of that on Viagra alone. Apparently this is seen as more important than allowing transgender people to serve their country.
Military personnel are held in high esteem by many Americans, often thanked for their sacrifice and heroism. This esteem and gratitude should include transgender military members by default. As of 2014 an estimated 150,000 transgender people have served in the military, and they are more than twice as likely to serve than the general population according to a Los Angeles Times article. Such a vital demographic within our armed forces deserves better than this. They, at the very least, deserve more than a string of inaccurate, ellipses-joined Twitter insults.
Despite Trump’s advocating for LGBTQ+ rights during his campaign, this decision expresses an obvious hostility toward the transgender population. This new policy (if you cant call it that) has fearful and uninformed origins, possibly creating devastating civil rights implications, and leaves many current transgender service members in the dark as to how it will play out. Already there are scheduled protests and statements made by prominent transgender allies on media platforms. These groups aren’t accepting Trump’s justification but see the policy’s implicit animosity toward the transgender community.