Real Talk about the Trans Military Ban

Trans pride colored trans symbol with a fist in the center and the word “RESIST” at the bottom.

Now that I am not absolutely fuming, let’s have a real discussion about what this trans military ban really is. Trans people have always been and will always be in militaries.

Just check out my girl Osh-Tisch. No, I mean really. She’s awesome and only one, beautiful example.

There is no effective way to ban trans people from enlisting, so this will in no way prohibit trans people from continuing to serve their country.

No, what’s happening here is forcing trans people who are currently enlisted or who would like to enlist in the future to remain closeted by framing them as a burden. This is essentially a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” repackaged for trans people. It’s a destructive, dehumanizing policy, and it is being done based on three main arguments: cost, battle readiness, and disruption.

Disclaimer: Before I continue, please let me note that not all trans people medically transition for a variety of valid reasons. Decisions on how to transition (or not to) are entirely up to the individual, and these decisions make a person’s gender no more or less valid than anyone else’s.

So first, let’s talk about cost.

I’ve seen a few articles today about how ridiculously small the bill for healthcare is expected to be for trans people in the military. We spend more on Viagra® for our soldiers than we would spend on this life saving healthcare that people seem to see as being so frivolous. According to data provided by the Defense Health Agency, the DoD spent $41.6 million on Viagra® (a total of $84.24 million total for ED drugs) in 2014. Compare that to the estimated $2.4 million to $8.4 million per year given by the Rand Corporation (http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1530.html) for life saving and affirming health care for trans soldiers.

To put this even more into focus, President Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago during the weekends can cost the U.S. as much as $3 million each. At the low end of the Rand Corporation’s estimate, forgoing just one of these trips to his luxury resort would cover the costs of trans healthcare for a year.

To illustrate how infinitesimally small this cost is, CNN tweeted a small infographic to showing these costs compared to the total DoD health care budget.

But were the cost of this healthcare larger, this would not make it any less important or any more of a valid reason to prohibit trans people from enlisting. Health care is a necessity in maintaining a military (as well as a society) and should never be considered a “burden.”

Next, trans health care would have negligible effects, if any at all, on the battle readiness of soldiers.

According to that same RAND Corporation study, allowing trans people to serve in the military would have “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.” At the very least, that’s what the 18 other countries who allow trans people to openly serve have experienced.

One main reason, of course, is that trans people make up a very small portion of the population. RAND estimates that roughly 2,450 of the 1.3 million active-component service members are trans. Based on this, it is estimated that between 29 and 129 active members might seek care that could temporarily affect their deployment readiness.

The Williams Institute published a report in 2014, which gave an estimate of roughly 15,500 trans people who were either active-duty, guard, or reserve.

What we’re mainly going to deal with is hormone prescriptions for trans soldiers, which have no negative impact on a person’s ability to function or respond. Heck, I take mine every day and still manage to get to work!

All of this is happening in a time where we are facing a rather terrifying choice when it comes to health care, and these arguments are making trans affirming health care seem as if they are somehow frivolous and vain as compared to life-saving and important, which is incredibly dangerous for the health of the trans community in general.

Essentially, both of these first two points boil down to a discussion about health care. Were a soldier to need health care for a variety of other reasons, the American people would not bat an eye, but because trans health care is viewed somehow unimportant, this sort of argument comes into play, framing trans people as a burden on the tax payer and on the military’s combat readiness.

Finally, transgender soldiers are no more a distraction than soldiers of color. Or female soldiers. Or lesbian, gay, bisexual, or asexual soldiers.

As noted before, trans soldiers have been in militaries since time immemorial. Why would this suddenly be an issue now?

Nevertheless, we have seen this same argument over and over. The idea that a trans soldier simply existing is enough to distract a cis soldier is ludicrous.

This kind of rhetoric is one of many commonly used against minorities. When POC were joining the military, one of the arguments used against them was disruption. When women joined the military, people were once again concerned that the new soldiers would distract the current soldiers. And when gay people started serving openly, people shouted that this would be too much of a distraction. And yet here we are, with our ridiculously bloated military still functioning.

These arguments are preposterous and do not hold up against logic or reality. They never have, and they never will. They are simply tools of bigotry that seem innocuous to those who don’t fully understand them.

We’re here. We’ve always been here. We’ll always be here. We. Are. Not. A. Burden.