According to The Washington Post, Viagra on its own costs the US military five times more than transgender service members’ entire medical expenses. Let that one sink in.
I needed to put that out before getting bogged down into a discussion on the pragmatism, and fiscally “responsible” reasons Donald Trump tweets nonsense:
Trump took it upon himself, somewhat prematurely, to ban transgender Americans from the US Armed Forces, because of medical costs. A whopping $8.5m. It’s a good thing he wasn’t made aware of the erectile dysfunction issue.
I could continue to discuss the fact ranking members within the Pentagon have said they won’t change the current policy of acceptance for all until Secretary Jim Mattis instructs them. I could also relay information about Trump jumping the gun which has both angered and upset many at the Pentagon and in military branches, leaving the thousands of transgender active personnel wondering their fate.
I’m not going to. You can find all that information out there. On every channel.
Yes – those who have pre-existing medical issues are a concern for active service. Diabetics, epileptics, and symptomatic-asthmatics are all blocked from enlisting with the armed services. And this is the same for many Western cultures, where both armed and emergency services are off limits. Beyond the actual cost of medication and consultations, removing those with pre-existing conditions prevents emergency issues becoming a factor during daily tasks. It makes sense. You wouldn’t want the police to worry about the blood sugar levels of a partner when in pursuit of a criminal. In those situations you would look after your partner and let duty become secondary. It is unfortunate to exclude those with chronic illnesses, but it makes everyone safer.
So, riddle me this: why is being transgender similar to as someone who is a diabetic?
I was informed, after the tweets raged through the internet, by the father of a good friend – someone I respect dearly, but disagree with politically – that military service is not a right, but something earned. And here I must agree. Not everyone gets to serve, you must work for it and achieve the merit to work for your country. However, that shouldn’t preclude everyone from a fair shot to serve. All citizens deserve an equal chance to enlist if they so choose.
Someone bound to a wheelchair would not be able to pass through basic training. Same goes for diabetics, for those with physical disabilities, or even extreme mental illnesses. For those needing strict regiments of medication, the situation becomes all the more worrying.
Yes, there are some medical procedures which can occur should one choose to have transitional surgery. Yes, it is likely those who identify as trans could suffer with poor mental health while in transition or coming out to those closest to them. And yes, these extra facets do come with certain costs. But these issues neglect one very important fact:
BEING TRANSGENDER IS NOT A MEDICAL IMPAIRMENT.
They are not handicapped, nor do they suffer from a debilitating illness like epilepsy. They are people who were unfortunate to be born as the wrong gender. And many of these people develop a sense of duty, perhaps as a mechanism to seek a sense of belonging, but something which drives them to want to serve their country. And should they enlist and succeed through the training, why shouldn’t they be commissioned into service?
The medical nonsense is frankly bull, used to try and excuse an old man’s prejudice against a group he clearly doesn’t understand. Trump wants people to believe he is a pragmatic man, and a fiscal thinker concerned with budgets. Instead, he is someone with a questionable history with the LGBTQ+ community.
Banning transgender people from enlisting follows a long line of discrimination against marginalized groups; women, people of color, lesbians and gays. All were told they would inhibit unit cohesion, they would cause a rupture in combat readiness, despite studies stating it had little impact.
Being transgender is not a medical condition treatable with pharmaceuticals. I am a type one diabetic, but it isn’t my whole life. It’s part of it, one which can exclude or inhibit me from a variety of activities many take for granted. I am not transgender, nor do I have the words to correctly depict how it must feel. But to be transgender would overwhelm your entire being. It defines you, enveloping every aspect of your self, from your thoughts and feelings, to how you dress and present yourself; how you see yourself and how others see you.
I am excluded from active service due to an illness. Someone who is transgender, under Trump’s administration, may face being excluded for who they are as a person.
By continuing the open policy for trans people to serve openly would not just be the right thing to do for equality, but it also widens the pool of those who may enlist. And as the San Francisco council discovered, it would be at little extra cost to medical procedures:
“Despite actuarial fears of over-utilization and a potentially expensive benefit, the Transgender Health Benefit Program has proven to be appropriately accessed and undeniably more affordable than other, often routinely covered, procedures.”
Currently there are thousands of transgender people in active service. They are dutiful and honorable, protecting each other and their nation with courage few can muster.
Should it matter who they are if they are willing to sacrifice themselves in service to their country?