In a series of tweets, Trump alleged that the US Military could not continue to employ openly transgender people because of the “tremendous” cost associated with sex reassignment surgey and because the “divisiveness” of trans peope harms the US military as a fighting force.
It seems that legislation in the US House of Represantives which would, amongst other things, give funding to Trump’s proposed border wall was under threat because a group of Republicans refused to vote for it unless there was a specific prohibition on Pentagon funded sex reassignment surgery for trans members of the US military. So Trump took to twitter to make them happy, and instead of simply addressing the surgery issue he decided to go far past a perceived budgetary debate and straight into open discrimination.
Trump cited the “tremendous medical costs” associated with the approximately 7,000 transgender troops, even though many of them are not currently undergoing surgery. Indeed it seems that about 130 intend to pursue treatment surgically and around 140 were considering hormone treatment. If all of these individuals did choose to pursue treatment, and many may not do so, the cost would be less than 0.01% of the Pentagon’s budget or up to 8 million dollars. TO put this in perspective, an F-35 jet costs $164.3 million and each weekend trip Trump takes to Florida costs the government $3.6 million according to the Government Accountability Office.
What this is then is not so much a military issue or even a budget issue. Many trans members of the US military have served with huge distinction, including on the same Seal Team that killed Osama Bin Laden. Quite clearly, anyone who is open about their trans identity in such a challenging and hetero-cis-normative environment is incredibly brave. Rather, this is an issue of scapegoating. A sacrificial lamb needed to be thrown to the right an Trump picked a group that he knew not enough people cared about to cause massive uproar. That group was trans people.
The burden now falls to us to make that uproar. Because an injury to one is an injury to all. The scapegoating and persecution of minorities won’t stop here unless we stop it here. First it’s people from the majority- muslim countries on the banned list, then it is transgender soliders, then it’s anyone without employer health insurance and sooner or later it’ll be you. Politics is politics and disagreement is healthy, but rights are rights and stepping back on them is never a way to move forward. Tools for activism online abound, and the Himan Rights Campaign is always a good place to start. We’d love to hear from our trans readers, especially any who have served in the armed forces or have friends impacted by this decision.