After consideration 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.”
As the Trump administration promotes its “American Heroes Week,” the US commander-in-chief let it be known in a torrential three-tweet series that he does not include transgender people, especially those currently and previously serving in the US military, in the category of “American heroes.”
Trump’s official policy-by-tweet contradicts Defense Department regulations released June 30, 2016, under defense secretary Ash Carter permitting trans people to join and openly serve their country.
At that time, the US added its name to an ever-increasing list of 19 other nations welcoming trans people into their military ranks, with the Netherlands as the first as far back as 1973. A sampling of others include Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Germany, Israel, New Zealand and Spain.
The US House of Representatives defeated a bill earlier this month on a bipartisan basis, which, if passed, would have prohibited the Pentagon from covering the costs of transition surgeries. Twenty- four Republicans joined the Democrats in turning back the proposal introduced by Missouri Republican Representative Vicky Hartzler.
Estimates vary regarding the number of active trans members currently serving, from 1,320 – 6,630 according to a Rand Corporation Study, to an estimated 8,800 in the US armed forces and 6,700 serving in the National Guard or Reserve forces according to the Williams Institute.
The Rand Study fully debunks the lier-in-chief’s assertion of “tremendous medical costs” expended on trans service members. Of the Pentagon’s annual military health care budget of $6.28 billion, an estimated $2.4m to $8.4m. accounts for transition-related health care costs.
In addition, Rand found that a mere 25 to 130 active-component trans military personnel have deployment restrictions due to transition-related medical treatments. In comparison, 50,000 active-duty soldiers in a single branch, the Army, cannot deploy for medical and other reasons.
It should be crystal clear to anyone that Trump’s motive in issuing his latest ban on an entire category of people has nothing to do with concerns over improving military readiness. It has nothing to do with health care costs. It has nothing to do with some alleged and unspecific “disruption.”
As North Korea increasingly develops and improves its nuclear and intercontinental missile capabilities, as the crisis in Syria worsens by the day with its ally Russia gaining more regional and geopolitical influence, as our NATO allies are forced to go it alone while Donald whistles in the wind, by declaring war on trans people in the military he kicks the proverbial can down the road in terms of developing consistent and coordinated strategic military and foreign policy initiatives. He also hardens his appeal among his base of support.
Since Trump’s inauguration, the White House website has removed reference to LGBT issues and policies from the previous administration, and reversed an Obama-era executive order permitting trans students to use school facilities most closely aligning with their gender identities.
Trump’s not-so-surprising current assault on trans people has the heavy thump print of Vice President Mike Pence who, in his first congressional campaign in 2000, argued for public funding of so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ people. On his website at the time, his disdain for same-sex attractions and sexuality stands out: “Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Pence opposes marriage equality and LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, and helped to pass the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration law allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The state was forced to amend the law after experiencing serious political push back.
Donald Trump, by choosing Pence, has added LGBTQ people to his already long list of “others,” which includes Mexicans and all Central and South American-heritage people, Muslims, people with disabilities, all women, plus anyone who supports the Black Lives Matter movement. By choosing Pence, Trump has doubled down on his attempts to divide and conquer the electorate by instilling fear in promising the bigoted the “freedom” to discriminate to the fullest extent of the law without the threat of prosecution.
Members of the trans community often suffer the consequences other truth tellers have suffered in the past. Nearly every two to three days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans women of color.
The Trump administration’s latest assault on trans people will prove to be a total failure by discharging and preventing service by talented and committed people who would have joined the ranks, many of whom held or could have potentially held critical positions, for example, as interpreters and other military specialists.
As our troops are currently stretched thin throughout the world’s conflict areas, the reinstated ban only exacerbates the problem and discredits our country by eliminating an entire class of people whose only desire is to contribute to the defense of their nation.
We must admire trans folks for maintaining a willingness to join the military following such scurrilous representations of them, but permitting policymakers, the majority presumably heterosexual and largely cisgender male, to dictate policy over whether trans service members are granted permission openly to serve our country makes about as much sense as allowing men to determine whether women get the vote or maintain control over their reproductive freedoms.
The question is not whether they will “allow” us to serve openly. The more salient question is whether we can forgive them for their dehumanizing, offensive and downright prejudicial stereotypical characterizations.
Though eventually legislators reversed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that banned lesbian, gay and bisexual people entry into the military, history will record and remember this indelible stain on the reputation of the United States. While the country now needs to undergo its developmental process in gaining a greater awareness regarding the needs, concerns and realities of trans people, we will not forget, and many of us will find it difficult to forgive.