Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people’s service in the military is an echo of past discrimination

Just past 2pm GMT on 26 July 2017, Donald Trump, President of the United States of America, posted a single sentence stretched across three tweets outlining that, due to ‘tremendous medical costs’ and ‘disruption’ caused, transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the US Military.

 

Let’s start out by trying to sort out this madness with a few facts.

The new millennium seemed for the United States, up until the past year, a chance to move forward in the fight for equality of all united under the flag.  President Barack Obama repealed the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in 2010, allowing LGB men and women to serve openly in the military.

Just over a year ago, the United States Congress lifted the ban on transgender service members in the military, following over 18 other foreign militaries who allow the same. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the time, “The Defense Department and the military need to avail ourselves of all talent possible in order to remain what we are now — the finest fighting force the world had ever known. We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman or marine who can best accomplish the mission. We have to have access to 100% of America’s population.”

This is a completely different beat from the current decisions supposedly moving through the US government at the present time. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, in a statement to Foreign Press, estimated that the cost to the Pentagon from medical treatments transgender service members may require would be close to $1 billion over ten years. According to the same article, Hartzler’s office promptly ‘declined to comment on her estimate.’

Now, why don’t we look at some real facts. Studies from the RAND Corporation commissioned by the Pentagon estimates that there is anywhere from 2,000 to 11,000 transgender Americans serving in the US armed forces, though estimates skew up to more than 15,000 transgender Americans according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

This same RAND study cites a few key findings:

  1. Approximately 1,320 – 6,630 transgender service members serve in the active component, but data indicates that ‘each year, between 29 and 129 service members […] will seek transition-related care.’ This represents less than 0.1 percent of the total force receiving this care.
  2. If treatment, following a ‘0.04- to 0.13-percent increase’ in expenditures that is reflected in almost all budget changes, health care for these treatments would cost between ‘$2.4 million and $8.4 million annually.’ This is coming out of a $6.2 billion annual health care budget.
  3. ‘Previous integration efforts and the experiences of foreign militaries indicate a minimal likely impact on force readiness.’ This is as in-a-nutshell as you could ask for. Past research indicates ‘little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.’ In fact, there is a greater sense of community and connection between forces: ‘Commanders noted that the policies had benefits for all service members by creating a more inclusive and diverse force.’

Trump and those supporting him have not had the greatest track record for keeping their word. The current president even has a history of promising equal treatment and support of the LGBTQIA+ community.

After the massacre of 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, which occurred during his presidential campaign last July, he said, “Ask yourself who is really the friend of … the LGBT community, Donald Trump with actions or Hillary Clinton with her words? I will tell you who the better friend is and some day I believe that will be proven out bigly (ph).”

 

Now Trump, we all want to know: where is this “better friend” you so obviously promised us to gain a minority vote, while more and more transgender women are being shot and killed in the streets, and hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community increase? Where is this proof you blatantly promised as you discriminate against those who serve under you so proudly for our country?

As time has moved from the announcement, one thing has become painfully clear: this decision is nothing new. And it means we as a country are slowly backing into the past, which many believed and hoped we had left behind long ago.

What warmth and consideration has Trump shown this community since his rise to presidency? In the blatant rejection of an accepting society with the opposition of same-sex bathrooms? In the negligent hatred shown toward anyone with a different background than he, himself, an upper-class able cishet white male?

For a full year, transgender individuals interested in serving in the military had the hope to do so as themselves, and the hope to seek transitional treatments that could possibly not have been available to them in the past. In a cruel Flowers for Algernon-esque turn of events, it is ripped away from them.

The argument for military readiness is not an original development. In 1948, Senator J. Lister Hill, Democrat of Alabama, warned against the inclusion of blacks in the military ranks because of “the morale of the Army at a time when our armed forces should be at their strongest and most efficient.” In the 1990s, Representative Newst Gingrich opposed allowing women into combat because “females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections. In 2010, before the repeal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said it would “harm the battle effectiveness which is so vital of our young men and women in the military.”

We have overcome these discriminations. While the military does not represent society as a “microcosm,” it does assert for young people what should and shouldn’t be allowed. Those most impressionable will be influenced by what their society decides what is or is not acceptable.

However, because I am not transgender myself, I will shut up. Too often are transgender individuals silenced by louder voices scrambling for the last word. In order to prevent this as much as possible, I have gathered resources from peers, from the many on the Internet posting in opposition, and compiled them here. Let their voices help you decide and understand yourself exactly what impact this decision will have.

 

“Let’s meet face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy,” Kristin Beck, a 20-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, told Business Insider on Wednesday. “Transgender doesn’t matter. Do your service.”

 

‘This was a blatant attack on the transgender community (and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole) in order to alienate us further from our cishet counterparts. Statements like this are the reason trans people continue to be murdered, left homeless, and targeted today. Trump is not here to make our military more efficient and weed out the “distractions” that keep us from “victory” but to continue to segregate, alienate, and essentially out trans people to their coworkers.’

  • Gaib Ramirez

 

“I fear that trans veterans will be honoured less, and maybe some will think they’re bluffing because ‘trans aren’t allowed to serve so how could you?’ I fear they will be disrespected and that this and everything else Trump has done and will do is settling in the wrong direction; young kids will feel like they have no say, because they possess no real power.”

  • Maria Flinch*

 

“There are many others wishing to fight and defend this country, a country they feel deserves to be defended, but are shut down solely based on the fact that they decided to be their true selves and it’s just awfully sad to watch these people lose the passion they have for the country and their passion fade for being in the military itself, the president lost himself thousands of loyal soldiers but he never deserved them anyways.”

  • Anonymous

*Name has been changed to protect the contributor.

Francesca Tirpak

Art by Bella Spencer

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