A Trans Person Responds to POTUS Tweets

I’ve been asked by several people how I would respond to certain vitriolic hate speech directed toward trans people in the military since the current POTUS tweeted a “ban” on our service. The short answer is: I wouldn’t. I try very much not to engage in those arguments online because I find them to be unproductive and honestly harmful to my mental health. That said, I figured I would collect a few thoughts so I don’t keep repeating myself and using my family plan data to search for the same links. There’s six of us, those bytes are precious.

First off, TWEETS ARE NOT POLICY. Let me repeat, tweets≠policy. There have been a lot of unusual things happening in American politics recently, I’ll grant you that, but we still have not slid so far that early morning tweets can change policy.

Next point, to address the argument that trans people disrupt unit cohesion: This argument has been used against the enlistment of black men, then women, then LGB people. It’s so rote, that Aaron Sorkin has used it in a script.

Beyond that, an actual study was performed by the Rand Corporation that found that allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military had “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness.”

Now to address the cost component. You may already have seen comments floating around relating Viagra costs to the costs or transition-related healthcare. This is a false equivalency but it certainly gives stark perspective. At the absolute highest, the estimated costs for all transition-related healthcare for active duty service members is $8.4 million compared to $84 million spent on treating erectile dysfunction. These numbers also come from research by the Rand Corporation. The estimated cost represents about 0.04% to 0.13% of the entire budget for military healthcare provided to active service members. It does not include reservists or veterans.

All of these comparisons are solely looking at military costs. When you consider other superfluous spending in the government, the cost of trans healthcare for military personnel only grows more obviously insignificant.

For more perspective on this cost, the military spent $1.5 trillion on the F-35. The cost to have military bands is $437 million. Something else to keep in mind concerning the “ban” of transgender people is that it’s actually difficult to enforce. The military can ban people actively receiving treatment or who are out about their gender identity, but how do they ban people who are not out, who haven’t transitioned? Trans people have been serving in the military since organized armed forces began.

(Disclaimer: Mulan was not transgender, this is meant humorously only)

There is nothing that prevents pre-transition, closeted trans people from serving. Even if trans people are banned from serving openly, there is nothing preventing veterans from transitioning after their service. This is actually more common than you might expect. There are an estimated 134,000 transgender veterans.

Beyond even that, not all trans people medically transition. This is a very-often misunderstood aspect of the trans community. There is also no singular transition path. Some people take hormones and never have any surgery or vice versa, some people do nothing. The process for transwomen and transmen also varies widely. Surgically speaking, there are numerous surgeries related with transition; there is no single “sexual reassignment surgery;” someone who opts for surgery may have one ore several surgeries.

One last note. Transgender people are not malicious or calculating con artists trying to figure out how to make the tax payers cover their transition. Not all trans people want to serve in the military, but those who do want to serve for the same reason that cisgender people want to serve. I personally know many who would rather maintain their right to serve and not have the military cover their transition related medical costs.

There is this vitriolic idea in the social consciousness that transpeople are sitting around plotting ways to take advantage of people. That's not the case. I shouldn’t have to say that. Sure, there are some not-great transgender people just like there are some not-great cisgender people. I hate that this isn’t obvious, be we are just like you. There are trans people who attend church or temple or mosque. There are trans republicans and democrats. Their are trans people with multiple advanced degrees and trans people who haven’t graduated high school.

I shouldn’t need to say this, and maybe someday I won’t have to. But for now, let me reiterate, we are just people. We want to use the bathroom for the same reasons, we want to serve in the military for the same reasons, we want to rent houses for the same reasons, we want jobs for the same reasons. I can’t believe I really have to keep saying this.