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A Department of Defense spokesperson recently confirmed that the White House has asked the Pentagon to begin drafting official guidelines for banning transgender people from the military, as per U.S. President Donald Trump’s wish issued via Twitter last Wednesday. The new guidelines reverse a year’s worth of work and disrupt current combat missions, leading one military professional to call the ban “a cruel and exorbitantly expensive witch hunt.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signaled that the military wouldn’t ban trans soldiers until receiving direction from the president on an official policy change. Those directions are apparently coming soon.
Referring to the ban, Navy Captain Jeff Davis told reporters at the Pentagon, “We have conversations back and forth all the time with the White House in a variety of channels and those conversations are starting to happen on the issue.”
Trump’s trans military ban is going to cost millions
Depending on whose estimate you go by, there are anywhere from 1,320 to to 15,000 transgender people actively serving in the military. Implementing Trump’s ban will mean identifying “ably serving U.S. troops and dismissing them for reasons unrelated to performance,” according to gay author Nathaniel Frank, author of Unfriendly Fire, a book about the U.S. military’s now defunct ban on gay service members.
Frank is right. And according to Alex Wagner, former chief of staff to the 22nd secretary of the Army:
“I can think of nothing more distracting or disruptive for a military at war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia than demanding that its leadership identify, locate, and discharge trans service members. The military has already spent hundreds of millions of dollars recruiting, training, and equipping these troops. Trump’s plan, if implemented, would impose real budget costs, undermining any insignificant savings derived by denying these service members medically necessary health care.”
It’s also worth mentioning that 56 retired military generals have written an open letter opposing Trump’s ban as well.
Trump’s ban causes more military disruption than trans people
Trump’s rationale was that the U.S. military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” but the cost of trans military healthcare is between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, nearly five to 20 times less than what the U.S. military currently spends on Viagra for veterans with PTSD.
As for “disruption,” Frank says that the issue of “unit cohesion” (that is, the belief that transgender troop members somehow undermine a platoon’s ability to function as a team) was merely one of several “political reasons” used to justify banning gay people from the military, adding, “The belief by religious conservatives that homosexuality was ‘morally repugnant’ would be insufficient to sway the national debate.”
The same holds true for transgender troops. This is a ban based on cultural beliefs, not on actual data.
Featured image by guvendemir via iStock