Opinion: Say no to the trans ban

President Donald Trump declared on Twitter that the United States would no longer allow transgender individuals to serve in the military, but is the basis of his ban legitimate or simply an act of transphobia?


Nina Elkadi

Trump speaks to the people of Cedar Rapids, IA last summer in July.

In response to the Pulse Shooting in Orlando, then presidential candidate Donald Trump told audiences at last year’s Republican National Convention that he would “do everything in [his] power to protect our LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of the hateful, foreign ideology.” The statement was supposedly directed towards Islamic terrorists. This last week, however, it wasn’t radical Islam that attacked the LGBTQ community. It was President Trump himself.

Going back on his campaign promises, President Trump said on his Twitter that “the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity of the U.S. military.” His subsequent tweet stated that the U.S. military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Let’s take a look at these claims, shall we? First of all, President Trump insists that medical costs are the driving force behind the ban. President Trump did not provide any data to support this claim; however, a Rand Corp. study from 2016 claims that costs for gender-transition-related health care treatment are low, ranging from approximately $2.4 million to $8.4 million annually. In contrast, the military spends $41.6 million on Viagra alone, roughly five times more than they spend on transgender health care treatment. In fact, the total military spending on anti-erectile disfunction medicine rounds out to about $84 million. That’s ten times the cost of medical care for transgender troops. If only President Trump cared more about the lives of actual human beings than he did about Viagra, am I right? The point is, there are plenty of other places to cut costs in military spending: he could eliminate expensive weight-loss surgeries, which only 1 percent of morbidly obese veterans use as part of their obesity coverage (these surgeries costed the military roughly $60 million in 2010 alone). Better yet, President Trump could look into cutting defense spending and save $125 billion over five years. That kind of money could pay for years and years of transgender health care, if President Trump were only willing to put the lives of actual people above his political agenda. Banning transgender troops from serving and blaming it on health care costs is simply a cheap excuse for discrimination.

The next hit President Trump took at the transgender community was the claim that their presence in the military is a burden and a disruption. This argument is similar to the one lodged against women prior to their right to serve being granted, as they falsely assumed that their attraction to the opposite sex would mess up military readiness. While we now know all of this to be false and sexist, historical evidence did not prevent President Trump from making an unfounded claim. President Trump once again failed to provide any concrete facts, while the same study from the Rand Corp. reveals that eighteen other countries allow transgender people to serve with “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.” Therefore, to say that transgender people are disrupting the day-to-day operations of the U.S. military is both false and insulting. Transgender people are human beings; no matter their gender identity, they should be shown respect and basic human rights. The only burden I can see here is transphobia.

If these transgender individuals are brave enough to fight for our freedoms, we should let them. We should consider them national heroes, just as we consider the multitudes of men and women who serve beside them to be.

This leads me to my last point: why would anyone really want to stop transgender people from serving, anyway? Logically, it makes little sense. If these transgender individuals are brave enough to fight for our freedoms, we should let them. We should consider them national heroes, just as we consider the multitudes of men and women who serve beside them to be. As of 2016, the Rand study believes there to be between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender service members actively serving, with between 830 and 4160 in the reserves. Some estimates say that there are as many as 15,500 transgender troops in total. While it is unclear as to how current transgender troops will be affected, it’s ridiculous to undermine their courage and dedication to service with a hateful and discriminatory order. After all, the findings from the 2014 National Transgender Discrimination Survey revealed that transgender Americans are twice more likely to serve in the armed forces than the general population. For the many transgender troops currently serving, the order is particularly insulting as President Trump himself has never served and is speculated to have intentionally dodged the draft.

President Trump’s unconventional style calls the legitimacy of his declaration into question. Pentagon officials have said they were caught off guard by President Trump’s tweet and there is no saying what comes next. As commander-in-chief, it is technically within President Trump’s power to make this call. However, just because he can, it doesn’t mean he should. For the time being, it looks as if the ban is on pause. Secretary of Defense James Mattis was on vacation when the announcement was tweeted, and was reportedly “appalled” by his message. As of right now, there will be no action taken against transgender troops until President Trump sends explicit directions to the Pentagon.

While transgender troops may be safe for now, sooner or later it is likely that action will be taken. I shouldn’t have to explain why everyone should care about this issue; to me, it seems like it is common sense. These are people’s lives and rights at stake; thousands of transgender individuals have dedicated themselves to serving our country and their loyalty is being met with downright discrimination.

They’re trying to fight for our country and make the world a better place, so please, for the love of God, just let them.

Furthermore, this is just the beginning. Following President Trump’s refusal to recognize June as Pride Month, as has been done in the past; many people had growing fears that President Trump wasn’t as LGBTQ friendly as he claimed. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest that President Trump chose to target the “T” in LGBTQ before anything else. With all the division around the country over transgender rights, such as the bathroom bills in North Carolina, there is no doubt in my mind that he saw a weak spot and he took a chance.

Now is the time for all of us to rise up and fight for our transgender citizens who have fought so hard for us. The military is not composed of purely white, straight, cisgender men. It is a diverse group of individuals who, despite differences, put their lives on the line to protect our country. I think everyone should remember that transgender individuals are just like us. They’re trying to fight for our country and make the world a better place, so please, for the love of God, just let them.