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military viagra transgender

The Military Spends More on Viagra Than on Transgender Healthcare (and 4 Other Truths)

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When U.S. President Donald Trump announced his ban of transgender soldiers in a series of tweets on Wednesday morning, he said, “Our military … cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” But his statement sounded pretty ridiculous once the press mentioned that the military currently spends $41.6 million annually on the erectile dysfunction medication Viagra, nearly five to 20 times what it would cost to fund transgender-related healthcare.

While the majority of that Viagra goes to military vets suffering erectile dysfunction from post-traumatic stress disorder, it made us eager to share other amazing truths about Trump’s ban.

1. Trump lied about having consulted the military

Trump’s initial tweets stated that he came to his decision “After consultation with my Generals and military experts,” but it’s become increasingly clear that that’s untrue. The day of Trump’s announcement, the White House referred all questions about the ban to the Pentagon (the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense) and the Pentagon referred all inquiries back to the White House.

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U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis was on vacation when Trump issued his tweets and was reportedly ‘infuriated’ and ‘appalled’ by the tweets, seeing them as an insult to openly serving trans members of the military. (Many came out after hearing the military’s intention to let trans people serve openly back in July 2016).

The Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Milley, said he found out about Trump’s ban through the news. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (all the heads of U.S. military) said that he wasn’t aware of Trump’s plan to ban transgender service members, implying that the other military heads weren’t either. Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said that he wasn’t aware of Trump’s plans either.

So while Trump may have consulted generals and military experts, he didn’t consult any active ones or any of the military’s top leadership.

2.  Most folks don’t support Trump’s ban (and that includes the top military leadership)

Dunford said that until Trump’s ban became official policy, “we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” implying that Trump’s ban treats currently serving trans military members with disrespect. He added, “Given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions,” implying the Trump’s ban was a distraction from the current missions.

RELATED | 17 Notable Responses to Trump’s Ban of Transgender People From the Military

Dunford isn’t alone in that opinion. A recent Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll of 1,249 American adults (including 533 Democrats and 434 Republicans) revealed that 58% agreed with the statement, “Transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military.”

Seven Republican congresspeople openly disagree with Trump’s ban including Senators John McCain of Arizona, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Orrin Hatch of Utah (a man who once compared openly gay teachers to Nazis), Richard Shelby of Alabama and Thom Tillas of North Carolina, Dan Sullivan of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.

In addition to the seven Republican congresspeople, 19 state attorneys general also oppose the ban.

3. Trump either did it as a distraction or a way to fire up his base, or both

There are numerous explanations for Trump’s unexpected decision. Lesbian news commentator Rachel Maddow said that it could be a way to distract from Trump’s failed Obamacare repeal, the continuing investigation into his possible collusion with Russia during the election or as a way to placate his right-wing evangelical base now that he’s reportedly considering firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions (a figure beloved by the right-wing for supporting the mass deportation of immigrants).

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But Richard Kim of The Nation said that his ban isn’t a distraction but rather a “transactional” continuation of his anti-LGBTQ policies meant to earn support of the white Christian evangelicals who helped elect him. (Remember, 81% of evangelical voters voted for Trump.)

The Nation said:

“Trump intended his tweets as a sop to the far-right evangelical faction, led by Missouri Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, which sought to bar the military from paying for transition surgery or hormone therapy for transgender service members, and which was threatening to withdraw support for Trump’s promised wall along the Mexican border until their demands were met.”

When Trump learned that funding from his wall was in trouble, he removed trans people from the military altogether — problem solved!

Another possibility is what one Trump administration official said:

“[The ban] forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin to take complete ownership of this issue. How will blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for reelection in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plank of their campaigns?”

But considering that most Americans support transgender military members, Trump may have overestimated the appeal of his policy.

4. Thus far, his ban isn’t official policy yet and has only made people nervous

Tweets don’t make policy, and until Trump issues Defense Secretary Jim Mattis an official policy change, the military has stated that it will continue business as usual.

We know that Trump is not interested in legislative and policy details, and soon he and the military may have to sort out how to handle its estimated 1,320 to 15,000 transgender military members — these include people at all levels and in all branches including captains, intelligence officers and submarine personnel currently serving in active combat as well as vets receiving military benefits.

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Now all of these transgender service members are in limbo while Trump, the military and the rest of the world figures out how to proceed.

If you remember the fight to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s ban on openly gay service members, you’ll recall countless vets speaking out about how they fought for their country only to be betrayed by an unjust policy. Vets chained themselves up to the White House fence, shared their stories of disenfranchisement with news outlets and made videos talking about their hardships under the current policies.

A rehash of those days, except with trans service members, may not be far off.