President Trump announced via Twitter on Wednesday morning that he plans to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals serving “in any capacity” in the United States military. There are currently 1,320 to 6,630 transgender people serving in the military.
Politico is reporting that the President’s decision to ban transgender troops was a trade-off so that House Republicans would fund his Mexican border wall in their upcoming spending bill. Some far-right House Republicans were allegedly opposed to the spending bill because they were against defense funding being used to pay for service member’s transition surgery, but were never opposed to transgender individuals serving.
A senior House Republican aide told Politico, “This is like someone told the White House to light a candle on the table and the WH set the whole table on fire.” It’s being reported that neither GOP leadership nor Pentagon leadership was aware that the President was going to make this announcement.
As of Wednesday morning, it is unclear how this ban will be instituted. A Pentagon spokesperson referred all questions about Trump’s statements to the White House and stated that the Defense Department will “continue to work closely with the White House to address the new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving the military [and] provide revised guidance to the Department in the near future.”
The announcement comes less than a month after the defense department delayed an Obama-era deadline for the expiration of the ban and exactly 69 years to the day after President Truman desegregated the American military. In contrast to the advancement of equality in treatment and opportunity that Truman’s action displayed, Trump’s proposal is consistent with his administration’s efforts to roll back civil rights and protections for the LGBTQ community.
Trump administration officials have repeatedly emphasized their concern over the effects transgender troops serving openly might have on health care costs within and the “readiness and lethality” of the military. A 2016 RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that letting these troops serve openly would have a “minimal impact” on readiness and health care costs, largely because there are so few in the military’s 1.3 million-member force.
Specifically, the study estimates that total costs for hormone treatment and gender transition surgery could range from $2.4 to $8.4 million, an amount which would also represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of total military health care expenditures, which amount to more than $50 billion dollars per year, including $84 million a year on erectile dysfunction medications.
Media Resources: FMF 7/10/17; CNN 7/26/17; The Hill 7/26/17; Forbes 3/12/12; The RAND Corporation 2016; Politico 7/26/17; Washington Post 7/26/17