Transgender military ban embodies harmful prejudice

When Donald Trump announced his intention to ban transgender troops from serving in the military, there was an outcry from a significant portion of the population. But the knee-jerk, poorly-thought-out decision should inspire concern and outrage in everyone, regardless of political affiliation or other beliefs. The issue at hand is about more than preventing someone from going through military training or serving in a war. It’s about the blatant denial of basic human rights to which all Americans should be entitled, and the singling out of a vulnerable group in a way that harmfully paints them as an other.

Trump’s decision, which was was first announced in a series of tweets, would reverse steps Barack Obama took during his presidency to make it easier for LGBTQ individuals to serve in the military. Trump claims that financial concerns related to transitioning and hormone therapy led him to declare a ban — but those concerns are based in inaccuracies. Far from “burdening” the military with outrageous medical costs, gender transition-related health care coverage would increase spending by only $2.4 million – $8.4 million — 0.04–0.13 percent — annually. (In contrast, Military Times has reported that the Department of Defense spends roughly ten times that amount — around $84 million — on erectile disfunction medications like Viagra.)

Estimates of transgender service members vary widely, but the number could be as high as 15,000. That means that Trump wants to belittle and dismiss as many as 15,000 individuals who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect each and every person in this country, even him. With less than one percent of Americans willing to enlist in the military, we should be grateful for all of the brave people who volunteer their service. Trump’s ingratitude is almost as great as his hypocrisy.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion for an injunction of the ban. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has also come forward to challenge the ban. He joined Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), and Susan Collins (R-ME) in introducing a bill that will prevent the president from moving forward with the order.

The bill would stop the Pentagon from denying the reenlistment of transgender troops currently in service based on their gender identity, and require Defense Secretary James Mattis to continue with the training of transgender troops already recruited before Trump announced the ban.

Additionally, Mattis has stated that his department will continue to discuss the implementation of the bill. In the meantime, transgender Americans already serving are permitted to reenlist.

This deliberation surrounding Trump’s announcement shows that the decision is in no way final at this point, but it is more important now than ever that it is fought and overruled. If Trump can decide to take away some rights that should be guaranteed to citizens of this country and get away with it, there’s no reason he couldn’t start to strip people of other rights as well. We must draw a line, and we must draw it now, in time to protect a vulnerable group in society from being treated unfairly and cast aside.

The freedom to serve in the military is not one that can be taken away based on gender identity, any more than it can be denied on a basis of race or sexuality. Transgender people are not a burden, financially or in any other way. We as Americans, as human beings, cannot allow something so based in prejudice and misinformation to become a reality.