On July 26, President Donald Trump tweeted about banning trans people from the military. Trump’s three tweets announced that transgender individuals in the military would result in, “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
The tweets also mentioned a discussion of the ban took place between Trump and his “Generals and military experts,” being Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff were ill informed, and Mattis had a one day notice before the tweet. Trump did not implement a plan for the ban or consult with the majority of the Pentagon before sending the tweets, causing confusion.
On July 27, Pentagon leaders announced that active transgender service members can still serve in the military. Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that the admission policy won’t change until the White House sends the Defense Department new rules and the Secretary of Defense issues new regulations.
“In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Gen.Dunford said.
Senior Claire Maves said she finds Trump’s use of Twitter to declare policy change troubling.
“His Twitter is not professional at all, and although I completely believe in freedom of speech and doing what you want with the media, I think there should be some limitations on what the president can do,” Maves said.
Trump’s main Twitter account currently has 32.4 million followers. Twitter Counter, a website that records statistics on a user’s popularity, estimates Trump to be in the 90th percentile for account strength, and ranks him number 28 amongst other Twitter users for the most followers.
Sophomore Lucas Arsey thinks Trump’s use of Twitter is a good way for him to keep Americans aware of his plans.
“There could have been a more formal way to alert the public, but since he did it on Twitter more people heard about it fast… Nowadays everyone is on social media,” Arsey said.
On August 4, a report issued by the Los Angeles Blade indicated the White House has approved guidance for implementation of the ban. The policy entitled, “A Guidance Policy for Open Transgender Service Phase Out,” authorized by Trump, is now under the responsibility of Mattis to review and implement. While the policy is not yet public, the Los Angeles Blade has noted that sources familiar with the planning claim the policy would encourage early retirement, dismiss transgender individuals up for promotion, and remove any enlisted personnel after their contract ends. The new policy allows trans people to continue serving for the military, but doesn’t provide protection from harassment.
Trump mentioned how trans people in the military could result in a great deal of military costs spent on gender transition related medication and surgery, but studies prove otherwise. According to a 2016 RAND Corporation study produced by the Defense Department, allowing transgender individuals to serve in the military would leave a small impact on readiness and health care costs due to the fact there are few trans people currently serving in the military. The study estimated that the population of trans service members range from 1,320 and 6,630 in the military’s 1.3 million overall force. The RAND estimated the possibility of 30 to 140 new hormone treatments a year within the military, and 25 to 130 gender-related surgeries among currently serving members. The estimated cost of these surgeries is around 2.4 and 8.4 million, a small portion of total health care expenditures. The military’s current expense on Viagra costs more than transgender transition medicine and surgeries combined. Defense Health Agency Data shows in 2014 the Pentagon spent 84.24 million on eight different types of erectile dysfunction medication, approximately ten times the amount that would be spent on gender-related surgeries. In his tweets Trump also commented on the, “disruption that transgender[s] in the military would entail,” urging that, “[o]ur military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory.” Jamie Shupe who served in the military as a Sergeant First Class while being transgender, shared how gender dysphoria and trans people could have an impact on the army in a commentary featured in the Daily Signal.
According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, “For some transgender people, the difference between the gender they are thought to be at birth and the gender they know themselves to be can lead to serious emotional distress that affects their health and everyday lives if not addressed.” An individual could be transgender and have gender dysphoria, but not all trans people have the mental illness. “On its own, being transgender is not considered a medical condition. Many transgender people do not experience serious anxiety or stress associated with the difference between their gender identity and their gender of birth, and so may not have gender dysphoria.” Shupe believes the debate of whether or not transgender’s should be able to join the military is about gender dysphoria. “If a service member is affected by gender dysphoria, it can seriously affect their duty performance. While they’re obsessing about their gender identity they don’t have their head in the game,” Shupe said.
Transgender transition surgeries and hormone replacement therapy have risks. Shupe was once taken to the hospital for swollen legs and feet caused by taking too much estrogen. Transgender members could also become non deployable or serve light duty for a good amount of time due to undergoing and recovering from gender transition therapies and surgeries. “Commanders are forced to respect these limitations. But the health and fighting capabilities of a military unit are determined by how many of its members are deployable. It’s that serious.” Shupe said. There are multiple factors that could prevent people from serving in the military. Factors such as neurological disorders, behavioral disorders, severe allergies, asthma, height, and weight. Arsey, whose brother is enrolled in the Marines, agrees with Trump’s controversial ban. “I think the word ‘discriminate’ is used too much as a negative portrayal. There is a long list of things that can prevent you from going into the military,” Arsey said. Shupe believes the military should be open to transgender individuals that are physically and psychologically fit instead of a ban on the whole group. “President Donald Trump is seriously mistaken in putting a blanket ban on transgender military service because not every trans service member is impacted by gender dysphoria. Neither does every trans person need to transition their sex,” Shupe said.
The ability for open transgender individuals to join the military was a policy approved by the Defense Department under former President Barack Obama and was still under final review before Trump’s announcement of the ban. Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, ended the ban on transgender people operating openly in the military in 2016, but followed up with a year-long review process so that the Pentagon would have the ability to create a plan for recruiting transgender people into the military. “It’s very reactionary policy to act on the progress we made in the Obama administration that finally allowed people to serve openly, whether you’re a lesbian, gay, transgender, bi, any of the LGBT community, you’re allowed to serve completely open,” Maves said. Before the transgender ban announcement Trump reversed another policy set by Obama which allowed transgender students to use the restroom of their choice. “Trump’s attack on the transgender community does not surprise me at all. In fact, I think many of us were wondering not if something like this would happen, but when,” recent UAHS graduate Greyson Van Arsdale said. Lambda Legal, an LGBT rights group, is trying to sue the Trump administration for making the announcement on twitter, and on July 26 demonstrators gathered into Times Square in protest of Trump’s proclamation of the ban. Veterans who depart the armed forces without an honorable discharge are often denied Veteran Affairs benefits. “It’s scary because they could be discharged and not on honor roll discharge, they wouldn’t get any retiree benefits and health care coverage, they basically have to start over from scratch and find a new job, that’s not how veterans should be treated. If I was transgender it would make me feel less like a person and no one deserves that,” Maves said.
According to a study by the Washington Post there is no majority support for Trump’s ban in any state or the District of Columbia. Even for the more socially conservative states such as Mississippi where 64% supported military service of trans people and only 36% were opposed to it. “It could go either way, honestly. There are a lot of different factors and outcomes,” Van Arsdale said. “It’s a possibility, even a likelihood, that the military will stop accepting transgender service people.”