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On January 22, the Trump administration received approval for enforcing its transgender military ban after the Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of President Donald Trump’s bid to restrict their ability to openly enlist. Despite the efforts of lower courts to block the implementation of the policy, the conservative majority of the Court was in favor of the president’s motion and complied. This stripped 15,000 service members of the choice to serve in the military.
Before taking it to the Supreme Court for review, Trump updated his blanket military ban to give a few exceptions to a few individuals. Trans individuals will be considered, as long as they follow these regulations: 1) they enlist as the gender they were assigned to at birth, 2) have no intention of transitioning, and 3) do not suffer from gender dysphoria.
The trans community remains to be Trump’s target for reasons unexplainable. He tweeted, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [persons] in the military would entail.” Trump exhausts the argument that health care costs for gender reassignment treatment will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. In fact, a study conducted by the Rand Corporation expects only a small 0.13 percent increase in health care spending to cover their treatments. Yet, the government allots $84 million every year towards erectile dysfunction medicines – roughly five times the estimated spending on transition-related medical care for transgender troops. The cost of care for trans troops is not a burden to American taxpayers nor are they a disruption to the military. In fact, the budget allocated for their care is minuscule compared to how much the Department of Defense spends to treat men’s sexual dysfunction. The repercussions are not only dangerous to the community he claimed to protect from discrimination at the 2016 Republican convention, but also to the country he claims to put first.
Discharging trans service members impacts their life thereafter. Unless it was an honorable discharge, most trans individuals will have trouble finding employment and benefits, as most get discharged on the notion that they were “mentally incompatible with military service.” Given the fact that they must explain to an employer why they were discharged, their job prospects are minimized and their opportunities for career mobility are far out of reach.
In a neoliberal capitalist economy, working in the military becomes a means of livelihood for some trans folx, when other job industries continuously exclude them from the workforce. Patriotism is mostly an uncommon motivating force of reason for individuals to serve. According to a survey conducted by the RAND corporation, a significant number of service members (46%) cited occupational reasons and benefits as their primary reason for enlisting in the military; while only 9% joined for institutional reasons (i.e., service to one’s country or family history). The military utilizes its resources and benefits to lure in the most vulnerable marginalized groups who find difficulty searching for jobs in other lines of work. As if the military could not have worsened with its historical roots in oppression and imperialism, it has closed the doors on transgender individuals from finding a source of income to economically survive in an exploitative economic system.
Banning transgender people from enlisting is counterproductive and will not make the military more effective. Reducing personnel by 15,000 will be a huge hit to all the military branches who have benefitted from each individual’s skills, work, and sacrifice. Trans service members produce effective results just as their cisgender counterparts do, the only difference is their benefits and healthcare coverages. Since the start of his campaign, Trump has routinely claimed to put America first and bolster the military for the sake of national security, yet he cuts thousands of members from the ranks; at the same time the military is in a crisis failing to meet recruitment goals.
President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who is notorious for his anti-LGBTQ+ views, has proactively pursued legislation to erase trans people from existence and to disassociate them from American civic life. Within Trump’s term, he has rescinded Obama’s memo allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice, and just a few months ago, the administration made a couple of unannounced changes to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website that altered the language that once protected LGBTQ+ workers from discrimination in their workplace. The OPM removed content established by President Obama in 2015 regarding name changes, pronoun usage, and restrooms which further complicates the understanding of LGBTQ+ rights are under the law. Trump’s actions and proposals endanger policies that once extended protections to all and essentially legalizes anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.
The Supreme Court’s approval of Trump’s transgender military ban further perpetuates the hateful perception of trans people as burdens. To refuse to hear cases against the ban and to allow the administration to enforce it is the product of bigotry amongst the five Justices who would rather exclude than seek to understand and acknowledge differences. This is a gross injustice on a community that has struggled for years to grab a hold of their basic civil rights. Despite making progress in the Obama era, their gains toward equal rights have been negated.
Trans people are not a burden. They do not threaten national security and they do not cost any taxpayer more than a cisgender person would. If there’s a real threat to consider, it would be the resident of the Oval Office who implements divisive policies to divert our attention from the real issues he cannot fix himself. Trans people are not your political scapegoats.