Trump's illogical transgender ban

By Jesse Anderson
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 5, 2017
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U.S. President Donald Trump [Xinhua]

In the months leading up to his election as President, Donald Trump was accused of being a variety of loathsome things – an Islamophobe, a misogynist, a demagogue, and just an all-around bigot.

If there was one minority group that he wasn't regularly accused of harboring ill-feelings towards, however, it was the LGBT community. In fact, it's interesting to note that not only was Trump the most LGBT-friendly Republican candidate to ever run for the Presidency, he was also arguably the most LGBT-friendly candidate to reach America's highest political office.

However, his announcement that transgender soldiers would be banned from serving in the armed forces has severely dampened the optimism that LGBT rights supporters might have harbored at the time of Trump's inauguration.

Trump made his decision known through his favorite means of communicating serious policy decisions: Twitter. His announcement came in a series of tweets; however, the most pertinent piece of information was: "The United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military."

He also claimed that this choice had come about, "after consultation with my generals and military experts." It's a vague enough claim; however, it should be pointed out that several very high-ranking military officials – including Mark Milley, the Army's top general, and General Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – were completely taken aback by Trump's tweets.

They both insisted they were unaware of any impending change to the military's policy regarding transgender soldiers.

Trump's announcement naturally was seized upon by the media. Transgender rights have been a huge issue in recent years in the U.S., with many on the left accusing those holding opposing views of being transphobic. Meanwhile, the right has decried the pro-transgender movement as being based on a denial of biological facts.

However, whichever side of the political spectrum you might be, Trump's main reasoning behind the ban is hardly convincing: namely, his claim that the military is spending too much money on the health costs associated with allowing transgender soldiers to serve.

Admittedly, hard facts are difficult to come by concerning military expenditure on transgender-related health costs, but one study by the RAND Corporation offered a figure of between 2.4 and 8.4 million dollars a year, a paltry amount for the world's largest military force.

To be fair, another estimate cited by right-wing sources – and attributed to Republican congresswoman Vicky Hartzler – claims that this figure could actually reach more than 100 million dollars, however, this comes from a single person with a clear political bias. Even if the estimate proves accurate, Trump's ban still faces two serious logical flaws.

The first: According to his tweets, all transgender people will be barred from serving. It doesn't matter if you've already undergone gender reassignment surgery, if you're transgender in any sense, you can't serve.

However, if someone's already passed through the whole process before enlisting, then their trans-related health costs for the military would be minimal. And if Trump's problem with transgender soldiers is really the cost of their healthcare, why not simply impose restrictions on how much the military will pay for an individual's transgender-related treatment?

[To be clear, I'm not arguing in favor of this; however, it's surely more palatable to many people than an outright ban on transgender soldiers) A policy that doesn't take these very basic ideas into account is clearly based on something more than mere financial reservations.

The second flaw: There are many other medical issues costing the military far more than the highest estimates of the monetary burden caused by transgender soldiers. For instance, it spends $84 million each year on erectile dysfunction treatment for servicemen, 10 times more than the RAND Corporation's upper-end estimate of transgender-related costs.

If the policy is for financial reasons, therefore, why not ban soldiers with erectile dysfunction as well and save taxpayers an exponentially larger amount of money?

These are both things that need to be addressed if the Trump administration expects the motives behind the transgender ban not to be viewed as bigotry. However, there's very little chance of that happening.

My guess is that Trump tweeted out the policy, likely to face serious challenges from both within and outside of the military, as a kind of petty form of vengeance against his many critics on the left. Given his past behavior, it's by no means an unlikely possibility.

Jesse Anderson is a writer and translator originally from Seattle. He is currently based in Mexico City.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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