Last month in a 5-4 decision, the United States Supreme Court allowed the Trump administration’s ban on the participation of most transgender individuals in the military to take effect — another unfortunate and harsh blow to transgender people in the United States. While current military members who are openly transgender can continue to serve under an Obama-era policy, the Trump administration’s stance makes it largely impossible for transgender individuals to enlist or come out as transgender after joining the military. The policy also states that any servicemember who is in the process of transitioning and in need of medically provided hormones will be disqualified from the military.
This new Supreme Court decision enables an unnecessary policy that is counterproductive to our safety and, most importantly, detrimental to our national values of respect and inclusion. As a campus and community constantly striving for inclusivity and equal opportunity, we should speak out against the Trump administration’s divisive, outdated and harmful actions.
The Trump administration justifies this policy by arguing that it is too expensive to provide servicemembers with transitional operations and hormones through defense spending, but this concern is unwarranted. According to CNBC, Trump authorized a federal defense budget of $674 billion for 2019, more than the next seven countries combined. This is certainly enough to provide medical care for the estimated 9,000 transgender military personnel, many of whom do not choose to undergo gender affirmation surgery at all. A 2015 study published by the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that the cost of providing transition-related care for military personnel would be around $5.6 million — a small fraction of the Department of Defense’s healthcare budget, which was $43 billion in 2017. The benefit of these individuals’ service greatly outweighs the cost — especially when fewer citizens are willing to dedicate their time and lives to serving our country, and fewer current military members intend to re-enlist. As the wealthiest nation in the world with the largest defense spending budget, there is no excuse for this type of discrimination.
Further, people who are willing and capable to work hard, train hard and protect our country should be allowed to serve. When lives are on the line, the gender identity, sexual orientation and race of military personnel should not matter. The American military should not be constrained by racism, sexism, homophobia or transphobia.
Not only is this policy unnecessary and counterproductive, it is also simply bigoted. President Trump has repeatedly shared hateful rhetoric, claiming that the presence of perfectly capable transgender troops would severely hinder the capabilities and productivity of the military complex as a whole. For instance, in 2017 he tweeted that, “our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that (transgender people) in the military would entail.” While far-right conservatives — the same people who claim to value our troops — overwhelmingly approved of Trump’s policy, LGBTQ activists and many others have criticized his policy as “cruel and irrational.”
In 2019, it’s both saddening and infuriating to see a community who must work so hard to achieve the same access to opportunities yet again be told that their identity makes them unequal and unworthy of American belonging. Hopefully, vocal objection from the American people can sway the newly elected Democratic House of Representatives to advocate in opposition of this policy and propel America further down a path toward political and social inclusivity. It’s a new and changing America, and our Department of Defense needs to keep up.
Miranda Grundy ’20 can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send responses to this opinion to email@example.com and op-eds to firstname.lastname@example.org.