October 21, 2018
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Degradation by tweet is no way to run the U.S. military

CARLO ALLEGRI | REUTERS
CARLO ALLEGRI | REUTERS
People protest President Donald Trump's announcement that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military, in Times Square, in New York City, July 26, 2017.

Kristin Beck, a retired Navy Seal had a direct request to President Donald Trump. “Let’s meet face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy,” Beck said to the president via Business Insider.

Beck, who served 13 deployments around the world, including a stint with the elite SEAL Team Six, made the challenge Wednesday hours after Trump announced, via Twitter, that transgender people can’t serve in the U.S. military.

“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. Thank you,” Trump said in a series of tweets, which came exactly 69 years after President Harry S. Truman’s executive order desegregating the U.S. military.

It remains to be seen how the Pentagon, which apparently knew nothing of Trump’s announcement, turns Trump’s tweets into official policy. Kicking thousands of transgender service members out of the military is, of course, needlessly cruel to them and disruptive to the military operations Trump says he cares so much about.

Trump’s rationale — that the Pentagon can’t afford medical care for transgender military members — is inhumanely inaccurate.

Transgender men and women have honorably served in the military for more than a century and continue to do so. Between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender men and women serve on active duty in the military, according to a 2016 report to the Pentagon from the Rand Corporation. Of these men and women, fewer than 140 per year would seek gender-transition hormone treatments and even fewer would seek transition-related surgery, Rand calculated. These therapies would cost between $2.4 million and $8.4 million per year, a tiny fraction of the Pentagon’s $6 billion annual health care budget. Remember this is a department that tried to hide the fact that it had wasted $125 billion over five years.

In fact, the military spends 10 times that much on erectile dysfunction drugs each year. There’s a military readiness issue Trump, who received five deferments during the Vietnam War and bragged that his “ personal Vietnam” was not contracting an STD while sleeping with numerous women, can really get concerned about.

Medical care would be a factor in the deployment of between 25 and 130 active-duty transgender military personnel per year. The Army alone has 50,000 active-duty members who cannot deploy for a variety of reasons, according to Rand.

As for what “his” generals want, it is unlikely they said they wanted transgender men and women kicked out of their units. Brad Carson, a former congressman who worked on transgender military policy under President Barack Obama, said he talked with “every single chief” and, while the Joint Chiefs of Staff wanted a delay in the policy to accept transgender troops, not one of them wanted transgender service members kicked out.

So, if Trump’s reasons for seeking to bar transgender service members are complete fabrications, why is he doing this? Some have suggested that this is a political move to make Democratic members of Congress have to defend keeping transgender people in the military to more conservative Democratic voters in states that Trump won. Or maybe Trump was trying to build support for his Mexican border wall by appeasing war hawks who want to ban gender reassignment surgery for military members.

This is part of the anti-LGBT culture war being waged by people like Vice President Mike Pence. As governor of Indiana, Pence was instrumental in that state’s passage of a law that allowed discrimination against LGBT people under the guise of religious freedom. After national outcry and boycott threats, the Indiana legislature revised the law. Similar legislation has been rejected in Maine.

Using transgender Americans as pawns to score political points is reprehensible. Congress, which controls the Pentagon’s budget, should stop this horrifying and unnecessary policy change.

 


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