President Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to announce that Uncle Sam no longer wants transgenders to serve their country in the armed forces.
“After consultation with my generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” wrote Trump.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” he continued.
The decision rolls back an Obama policy that allowed transgenders to serve openly. Trump did not elaborate beyond the tweet on what spurred the sudden policy change but it comes on the heels of talks on Capitol Hill on another Obama policy requiring the Pentagon to pay for gender transition treatment, The New York Times reports.
There are between 1,320-6,630 transgender service members in the military, roughly 2,450 on active duty (out of a force of approximately 1.3 million) and another 1,510 in the Selected Reserve, according to a study by the RAND Corporation.
The study goes on to note that not all would seek gender transition-related treatment. Moreover, that the costs associated with expanding gender transition-related health care coverage to those transgenders on active duty would increase costs by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, which equates to a .04- to .13-percent bump in the overall health care budget for active duty personnel.
These costs may not be “tremendous,” at least in terms of percentage, but they are real costs nonetheless, which raises an obvious question, why should even one taxpayer penny go toward funding gender-related health care coverage? Isn’t gender reassignment surgery a choice — not a need?
While the cost issue is one aspect of the decision, the other is the broader legal implication of banning a certain class of people from serving in the military. On this front, at least one advocacy group has promised to sue.
“We are committed to transgender service member,” said OutServe-SLDN, a nonprofit advocacy group that represents LGBT military members. “We are going to fight for them as hard as they are fighting for the country. And we’re going to start by taking the fight to Donald Trump in the federal court.”
Matthew F. Thorn, executive director of OutServe, told the NY Times that Trump’s decision was a slap in the face to transgenders serving in the military.
“We have transgender individuals who serve in elite SEAL teams, who are working in a time of war to defend our country, and now you’re going to kick them out?” Mr. Thorn said.
Thorn may have been alluding to Kristin Beck, a retired Navy SEAL with 20 years on the job, including time spent with the elite SEAL Team Six. Beck transitioned when she left the service in 2013. In an interview with Business Insider, Beck said, “Let’s meet face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy. Transgender doesn’t matter. Do your service.”
You can also catch some of Beck’s thoughts in the TMZ video below:
Where do you come out (no pun intended) on this topic? Should transgenders be allowed to serve openly? Should the government foot the bill for reassignment surgery?