The Problem with Trump's Military Transgender Ban

By Cassidy Camp on July 31, 2017

“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,” President Donald Trump tweeted at 5:55 a.m. on July 26th. (Reordered chronologically)

This shocking and divisive news has been a prominent topic of discussion since its announcement for many reasons. First, the decision to exclude transgender Americans from serving in the military is discriminatory based on gender, plain and simple. Banning the entire transgender community from serving in the military based on medical costs may seem reasonable at first, but the logic dwindles when we take into consideration the gender specific medical costs already covered by the military.

“[D]ata …showed in 2014, the Pentagon spent $84.24 million on 1.18 million prescriptions for eight different erectile dysfunction drugs like Cialis and Levitra.” The price tag of only one medical aspect specific to men, and a medically unnecessary one at that, is $84.24 million dollars. There is a severe lack of comprehensive data regarding military spending on women’s health such as gynecological care, contraceptives, and sanitary products for periods, but in 2015 “the military’s health insurance program, provide[d] inpatient and outpatient care for more than 200,000 active-duty servicewomen and many female military spouses,” and “on U.S. military bases, overall contraceptive use ranges from 50 percent to 88 percent.” Though we lack a monetary figure to represent these women, it stands to reason that health care specific to women is also extremely expensive.

In comparison to the medical costs specific to the binary genders already in place in the US military, it is estimated that the cost of gender transition related surgeries and hormone therapy in the military “would range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million per year, an increase of [0.04] to 0.13 percent in health care spending. That is, according to the report, ‘an amount that will have little impact on and represents an exceedingly small proportion of (Active Component) health care expenditures … and overall [Department of Defense] health care expenditures.’” The US military budget for 2017 is $593 billion. Not million, billion. Sometimes we like to think that one million and one billion are figures that are comparable to one another, but, for size comparison, one million seconds is 11.5 days, whereas one billion seconds is 37.7 years. With the medical costs the military covers which are already specific to gender, how can we justify not extending health care to transgender individuals, especially when that care costs a fraction of a single percent of the overall budget and is thousands of millions of dollars less than the gender specific healthcare already covered?

Another issue with the idea of a transgender ban is blatant government ignorance of the fact that not all transgender individuals opt to have their bodies surgically altered and/or opt for hormone therapy. A study performed in 2015 suggested that “Only a fraction of active duty transgender service members were likely to seek medical treatment… RAND gave a high-end estimate that of active-duty troops [an estimated 12,800], 130 would want gender transition–related surgeries and 140 would want transition-related hormone therapy.” Knowing this, will the ban prohibit transgender individuals that do not opt for transition related health services from serving in the military as well, and if so, how will the ban on those individuals be justified (aside from being overtly discriminatory)? These figures prove that the medical costs of transition specific treatment were simply used as an excuse to ostracize the transgender community and capitalize on the aspect of being transgender that most cisgender people do not understand: the medical aspect.

Additionally, the biggest problem with Trump’s tweets is that they left so many unanswered questions. Will the ban take effect immediately or will there be an adjustment period? What will happen to the already enlisted transgender personnel? Will the military compensate the transgender people that it discharges, or will they be left high and dry without benefits?

While the notion of this regressive and discriminatory policy is severely disheartening, it is not law yet. Trump tweeted the news of the ban before any official guidance had been given from the White House to the Department of Defense to officiate and enforce the ban, and the DOD was reportedly just as surprised as the American people at the tweets. Thus, many of these questions have not yet been addressed by policymakers either. As of July 31st, a Department of Defense (DOD) spokesman confirmed that, “the White House has reached out to the Pentagon to begin drafting official guidance to ban transgender people from serving in the military.”

Any able-bodied person who is willing to lay their life down for their country, regardless of gender identity, is to be respected and honored for such. This proposed ban is a testament to the government’s unwillingness to make progressive changes to support each and every American citizen, and it is telling the transgender community that their identity is too much of a “burden,” using Trump’s word of choice, to accept their humble sacrifice for the country they love. We await the official report detailing what the ban will entail, and, in the meantime, we must stand together with the transgender community and remind them that their service is valuable and we will fight this senseless and discriminatory policy of exclusion with them.

Cassidy is a dual degree student at FSU in the Humanities and Editing, Writing, and Media majors. She is a bibliophile and bookworm, and you'll often see her walking to class with her nose between pages of a book. Music is an important part of Cassidy's life; she's a vocalist and a songwriter in her spare time. Cassidy aspires to attend a Master of Communication graduate program after graduating FSU and, once finished with school, strives to enter the Public Relations field professionally.

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