Transgender Ban Is Smoke and Mirrors

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Is the President’s transgender military ban just a distraction from the scandals threatening his administration?

Hypocrisy, thy name is Trump. The President announced on Wednesday in a series of tweets that the United States will no longer “accept or allow” transgendered people in the military. He claimed that it was because of the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” that allowing transgendered people to serve in the military would entail. However, this decision came without a plan to implement it.

According to the press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the decision was made based on “what was best for the military” and was formulated in counsel with the President’s national security team. It reverses a ruling made under the Obama administration under which transgendered people could serve openly in the military.

This announcement comes on the heels of a presidential campaign during which Mr. Trump said that he would be a strong defender of the LGBT+ community. Additionally, Mr. Trump also commented that he would be an even better friend and president for LGBT+ Americans than his opponent Hillary Clinton.

According to a study last year by the RAND Corporation, there are around 2,450 transgendered people in the American military out of 1.3 million active-duty members. The study found that allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would “have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs” for the Pentagon. It estimated that health care costs would rise $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year, representing an infinitesimal 0.04- to 0.13 percent increase in spending for active-duty service members.

To put things in perspective, the American military spends more on Viagra than they do on procedures for transgendered people. All this pales in comparison to the size of the military expenditure of the United States, which is roughly the size of the next seven countries combined.  Citing research into other countries that allow transgender people to serve, the study projected “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness” in the United States.

This announcement is facing strong criticism from many Congressional representatives, such as Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), the vice chair of the congressional LGBT caucus. He called Trump’s decision a “slap in the face to the thousands of transgendered Americans already serving in the military” and said it “undermines our military’s readiness.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) strongly condemned the decision made by the President as well. Joshua Block, the senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project said the following :”Let us be clear. This has been studied extensively, and the consensus is clear: There are no cost or military readiness drawbacks associated with allowing trans people to fight for their country. The President is trying to score cheap political points on the backs of military personnel who have put their lives on the line for their country.”

The President himself has not served in the military in any capacity. Indeed, he obtained a 1-Y medical deferment and was not deployed to Vietnam. Instead, he waltzed into his father’s real estate business and begun his career (with a small loan of a million dollars). His blatant disrespect for the military has come out on multiple occasions, such as when he said he knew more about ISIS than the generals, and that they were “embarrassing” to America, as well as when he mocked Senator John McCain’s service in Vietnam, saying, “I like people who weren’t captured.” 

Mr. Trump is a master of media manipulation. His administration is in the midst of a scandal that could potentially be as devastating as Watergate. With his family members lying left, right and center about their connections to Russia, Mr. Trump himself is looking into ways to pardon everyone preemptively, with threats to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and Jeff Sessions. This transgender announcement enables him to shore up support from his conservative base while simultaneously distracting the mainstream media from his potential misdeeds regarding Russia. The President is playing a dangerous game. For the results, however, we can only wait and see. 

Adarsh Venkataraman is a student at The University of Texas at Austin.

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