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Transgender Ban in Military Is About Bigotry and Distraction, Not Readiness or Cost

| January 24, 2019

trump transgender ban

Camouflaging bigotry. (Shutterstock)

By Jill Richardson

The Supreme Court just paved the way for Trump’s ban on transgender people serving in the military to move ahead, at least pending other court challenges. The ban will harm the military and help no one, while doing nothing to address the nation’s real problems.


I’m neither transgender nor in the military, but I count several trans people, including trans vets, among my closest friends. I can’t speak for them. I can, however, speak as their friend — and as a sociologist who teaches about gender at the college level.

Trump cites the cost of medical care for transgender people undergoing transition as the reason for his ban. Yet many transgender people never have surgery, and those who do may wait until after they’re finished serving in the military to do it.

Hormone treatments and gender confirmation surgeries for transgender service members together are estimated to cost $8.4 million annually at most — that’s five times less than the military spends on Viagra. And it’s nearly 200 times less than the Department of Defense spends on health care and lost days of work due to smoking.

And yet service personnel are allowed to smoke. In fact, service members at many commands often have an entire culture built around enabling tobacco use, despite all of the costs. If this were actually about the cost of military health care, perhaps a smoking cessation program would be a better option than a transgender ban.

Neither of my friends were aware that they were transgender when they enlisted in the military. They just wanted to serve their country.

other-wordsNeither transitioned while they were serving, and one didn’t even realize she was trans until after she’d left the Marines. The other realized she was transgender while in the Navy and opted not to reenlist so she could transition without fear of being discharged. (She still works in the national security field as a civilian.)

Even with a ban, transgender people who haven’t yet realized or come to terms with being trans will continue to enlist and serve. A ban would mean wasting resources recruiting and training service members, only to discharge qualified personnel once they came out as trans or were outed.

Kicking trans service people out of the military wouldn’t only be extremely hurtful to the estimated 150,000 transgender people who have served, including 8,800 who are currently on active duty. It would also be a waste of money and disruptive to the entire military.

The transgender ban in the military has nothing to do with military readiness or cost — and everything to do with bigotry and transphobia. Trump is using the ban purely to provoke the left, throw red meat to his base, and distract us all from the real issues in our nation, like the government shutdown which continues to drain resources.

Transgender people in the military put their lives on the line (and sometimes lose their lives) to protect their fellow Americans. Excluding them because of their gender identities is a twisted way to thank them for their service.

It’s time to stop perpetuating hatred and distracting from real issues — and to stop using transgender people as a national scapegoat.

 Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org

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16 Responses for “Transgender Ban in Military Is About Bigotry and Distraction, Not Readiness or Cost”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Oh please, get over it!

  2. Mark says:

    Yes, taking two years to complete the procedure and not being deployable (not fulfilling your commitment) has nothing to do with unit readiness? Have you ever served while the guy next to you couldn’t do their job? Not fun, not fair. When does the person who isn’t undergoing a long treatment get their 2 year vacation? Try again Jill.

  3. Agkistrodon says:

    WRONG, In the United States military having a mental illness is not allowed, If you are found mentally ill you are DISCHARGED. Gender Dysphoria is a Mental Illness RECOGNIZED by the AMA AND the APA. So it is NOT about anything OTHER than MILITARY REGULATIONS. You see when you enter the Military you become a GI, Government Issue, Government Property, and they have standards and regulations. If you do not know how and why the US Military does things the way they do, either stifle it or enlist.

  4. Jon says:

    Writer as no idea what hes talking about…..I served many years, and the military exclusion of people for many reasons that effect readiness! Durning enlistment physical if an applicant we require too much or constant medical treatment and cant deploy, they will be rejected….this excludes be pregnant at enlistment and training, requires surgery…..many many other factor…..stop thinking like a stupid civilian, you are embarrassing yourself!

  5. Bill says:

    IMO the military is NOT the place for people with the mental disorder of gender dysphoria. BUT if they see this as a life goal of theirs fine. that being said they should serve as the sex they ARE not what they feel they are.

  6. Lt. Dan says:

    Put them all together in one unit. Call it the He/She/It Brigade ! Release them in Afghanistan near Kabul . Sit back and watch the movie .

  7. OIF / OEF Vet says:

    Jill, Jill, Jill…. you poor lost soul.

    Having friends or “as a sociologist who teaches about gender at the college level” does not qualify you to know anything about being in a war zone and the mental state you must be in to be prepared to die, kill or save a life.
    You may as well right an article about being a rock on Mars.
    Do some simple math… Trans suicidality is upwards of 45%, for myriad reasons, to include psychological issues (to whatever degree.)
    No one, regardless of trans or other related issues, has any right being on my left or right in an active war zone where bullets are flying and IED’s are blowing up. I, and almost every single other man/woman I have ever served with (in an active war zone where contact was made) agree.
    A Soldier must be operating at the highest level mentally and physically to best serve the mission.
    Active war zones are no place for anyone with such issues… If you disagree, then I invite you to enlist, deploy and bring them with you on a “KOC” mission.
    You will change your mind…

  8. Edith Campins says:

    A sad day for this country when Americans are denied the right to serve their country because of their sexual orientation.

  9. The TPG says:

    Racism and bigotry will reign in America so long as there is an undergrowth of fiery conservatives to keep the hateful embers glowing and a Trump to fan the flames. America always takes two steps forward and one step back in the fight for equal rights and equal justice. Progress is slow but inexorable. It helps that the old white conservatives who grew up as racists and bigots are rapidly aging and will soon join their extinct Neanderthal cousins.

  10. hawkeye says:

    the fact of the matter is that transgenders , queers , lesbos and whatever else are freaks, none of the military people I know want anything to do with them, and believe me ,I know, I have been a civilian employee of the Navy for 35 years and work with vets from all branches of the service, and absolutely zero of them want any thing to do with these abominations.

  11. Realist says:

    Everything that the President Trump administration does your paper attributes to ulterior and bad motives. Disgraceful..MAGA

  12. Amazing! says:

    An actual ‘Sociologist’ wrote this article? Wow! I wonder if she, or her veteran friends have ever been embedded with an Infantry combat unit? Has she any sociological clue about the typical 18-22 year old American ENLISTED soldier?

  13. Flagler County Citizen says:

    Technically, Gender Dysphoria is a mental disorder; however, not all transgender people have it. There are people who are fine with their biologically assigned bodies but espouse a gender opposite of their sex. So they don’t want surgery.

    Chromosomes, brain configuration, environment, and hormonal disposition could all contribute to a person’s being transgender.

    The question is whether it’s a major cost to allow people to live as the gender they identify as in the military–without the gender reassignment option–or if people are just uncomfortable with it enough to manufacture justifications for not allowing them to serve in the military.

  14. Anonymous says:

    A. This is not a distraction from the shutdown because the plan to reverse the Barack Obama transgender policy began last summer. B. It is not about bigotry because assessing the mental fitness of troops is a scientific concern of military experts whose job is to promote unit cohesion and combat effectiveness. Do you think for a moment that Russia or China are playing games with their military culture like this? The military is not a place for this kind of social experimentation that makes us weak.

  15. oldtimer says:

    the military is NO place for social experiments, the sole purpose of the military in its most basic terms is to kill our enemies! I spent over ten years in the service and its no place to be if you cant even figure out your own sexuality

  16. Jim O says:

    Jill, go back to Food. Quickly. You’re over your skies on this subject.

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