At Your Service – Carolina Broekhuizen
On Tuesday, January 22nd, the Supreme Court made an anonymous 5–4 decision to uphold President Donald Trump’s proposed military ban on transgender individuals. This policy, which displays the drastic reversal of the Obama’s administration’s 2016 decision to open the military to transgender service members, seems to be coming to fruition. While the ban has yet to be heard by the lower courts, this momentous decision brings the policy one step closer to being implemented. Although it seems to be too late to take direct action especially since the proposal has already been heard by the Supreme Court, individuals have not refrained from speaking their mind on what they believe to be a horrible attack on the civil liberties of transgender individuals. Many have angrily voiced their opinions through hashtags, calling for the protection of transgender rights. This plan was initially proposed by President Donald Trump in July of 2017 through Twitter, then later officially released by James Mattis, the former Secretary of Defense in 2018. Trump posted three tweets in succession on his Twitter which stated, “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.” While this explanation for the ban sounds cut and dry, it is slightly more complicated than it seems. In fact, the specifics of the ban have yet to be disclosed. According to CNN, while there are some exceptions, the general concept of the ban includes blocking individuals that have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a conflict between one’s gender they were assigned with and one which they identify as, from serving in the military. Apparently, individuals that do not suffer from gender dysphoria can serve as long as they abide by their biological sex. As stated, President Donald Trump’s premise for the ban is based upon the belief that transgender service members burden the military with heavy medical costs and are a disruption. While many disagree with the way Trump handled the matter, regardless, they agree with his stance. Amongst his supporters is David French, an American attorney, and journalist. The New York Times mentioned Mr. French’s comments in an article in which they discussed the ban, and he said transgender individuals are “disproportionately likely to suffer from mental illness,” and as a group in the military would “collectively degrade military readiness.” However, several online studies debunk the false belief that President Donald Trump presents. According to RAND Corporation, a research and analysis nonprofit institution, there are many other countries including Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia that allows transgender individuals to openly serve in the military. The study presented that the policy of granting transgender individuals the ability to serve in the military had little to no impact on the unity, effectiveness, or readiness of the troops. In their article, RAND stated, “Commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force”. The small fraction of transgender servicemen does not cost as much as President Trump makes them out to be. According to RAND’s study conducted in 2016, it can be estimated that there are about “2,450 transgender personnel in the active component (out of a total number of approximately 1.3 million active-component service members) and 1,510 in the Selected Reserve”. Only a small amount of individuals will strive to obtain gender-transition treatment. In fact, the “estimates derived from survey data and private health insurance claims data indicate that each year, between 29 and 129 service members in the active component will seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy”. While there are certain expenses for medical costs, it should be noted that not every transgender individual undergoes surgery. Aurora McNally, a social work student at Ramapo College brings up a good point. She said, “There’s a lot of people who do not get surgery because it’s painful, it can be expensive, there are sometimes complications, and sometimes people just don’t want to.” Assuming all transgender individuals desire and received treatment, the expenses would skyrocket. However, that isn’t the case. It should be taken into account that according to a 2015 study published by the Military Times, the United States military spends about $41.6 million a year on Viagra for the troops. When calculated, this is about approximately five times the medical cost for transgender individuals. The Washington Post also cited information from the RAND Corporation, which found that the approximate price of treatment for transgender service people would be “between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually” and that the approximate expenses on transgender medical expenses are “equal to less than a tenth of the price of a new F-35 fighter jet — or a thousandth of 1 percent of the Defense Department’s annual budget”. There are many expenses that President Donald Trump has the ability to cut down on since if he wishes to decrease expenses, including his approximate $2 million trips to Mar a Lago, according to USA Today. Given the small fraction of transgender individuals that serve in the military, expenditures on their medical surgeries barely dent the budget.
Regardless of the financial aspect of the situation, some believe that transgender individuals deserve to have the choice of whether or not they wish to serve their country. Pamela Sibilia, a teacher at Ramapo High School said, “I do think that fewer and fewer Americans are willing to join the military. So those that are willing to join, we should embrace them, we shouldn’t be turning them away.” She concluded, “If you’re willing to put on a uniform and protect our country, then that shouldn’t even be questioned.” Regardless of the torrent of arguments surging from opposing sides, research has concluded that transgender individuals serving their countries have little impact on the military budget and readiness. Furthermore, there are various ways to decrease military expenditures, aside from barring certain individuals from serving their country. The final verdict regarding transgender service members remains unclear and ultimately lies in the hands of the judicial system.
Board, Editorial. “Trump’s Transgender Military Ban gets a Boost.” The New York Times, 23 Jan. 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/01/23/opinion/trump-transgender-military-ban.html. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
Cohen, Zachary, and Ariane De Vogue. “Supreme Court allows transgender military ban to go into effect.” CNN Politics, 22 Jan. 2019, www.cnn.com/2019/01/22/politics/scotus-transgender-ban/index.html. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
Dubenko, Anna. “Right and Left React to Trump’s Transgender Ban.” The New York Times, 27 July 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/07/27/us/politics/trump-transgender-ban-reactions.html. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
Eustachewich, Lia. “US military blows millions a year on Viagra for its troops.” NY Post, 26 July 2017, nypost.com/2017/07/26/us-military-blows-millions-a-year-on-viagra-for-its-troops/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
Ingraham, Christopher. “The military spends five times as much on Viagra as it would on transgender troops’ medical care.” The Washington Post, 26 July 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/07/26/the-military-spends-five-times-as-much-on-viagra-as-it-would-on-transgender-troops-medical-care/?utm_term=.cb91ae63c546. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
Lopez, German. “Trump: allowing transgender military service would hurt combat readiness. Actual research: nope.” Vox, 26 July 2017, www.vox.com/identities/2017/7/26/16034040/trump-transgender-military-study. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
Schaefer, Agnes Gereben, et al. “Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly.” RAND Corporation, www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
“SCOTUS allows transgender military ban to go into effect.” CNN Politics, www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2019/01/22/supreme-court-allows-transgender-ban-schneider-sot-nr-vpx.cnn. Accessed 27 Mar. 2019.
*Last edited 3/27/19*