Why Trump’s ban of transgender people from the military is transphobic

By: Quentin Miller

Image taken from: Time Magazine

On July 26th, 2017, Trump tweeted out this: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military, our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

On January 22nd, 2019, this ban was put into temporary action by the Supreme Court, despite there being multiple lower court cases going on. 

In the wake of controversy related to the 2020 election, many Trump supporters have been trying to defend these actions to win over support of the LGBTQ+ community for Trump. Claiming that, just as Trump said, it was for economic reasons only.

Here’s why that’s factually incorrect.

First of all, he didn’t just claim it was for economic reasons. While he did say it was for the military budget, he also claimed it was to prevent “disruption that transgender(s) in the military would entail,” a blatantly transphobic statement claiming that transgender people are somehow disruptive, dramatic, or a burden. 

Second of all, if you do any research on the topic, you will learn that almost no medical  insurance in the U.S. covers facial reconstruction, hormone treatments, or genitalia reconstruction. Those are the only medical procedures that trans people “need” to go through, to transition. The health insurance issued to all U.S. army members, regardless of rank or division, is called Tricare. And while it is an extremely nice health care program, according to its own website, Tricare.mil, it only covers cosmetic surgery under these conditions: 

  • Correction of a birth defect (includes cleft lip).
  • Restoration of a body form following an accidental injury.
  • Revision of disfiguring and extensive scars resulting from neoplastic surgery (i.e., surgery that removes a tumor or cyst).
  • Reconstructive breast surgery following a medically necessaryTo be medically necessary means it is appropriate, reasonable, and adequate for your condition. mastectomy.
  • Reconstructive breast surgery due to a congenital anomaly (birth defect)
  • Penile implants and testicular prostheses for conditions resulting from organic origins or for organic impotency.
  • Surgery to correct pectus excavatum.
  • Liposuction when medically necessary.
  • Panniculectomy (tummy tuck) performed in conjunction with an abdominal or pelvic surgery when medical review determines that the procedure significantly contributes to the safe and effective correction or improvement of bodily function.

None of these apply to transgender people. This means, the U.S. military wouldn’t even be paying for these treatments.

Third of all, let’s just say there was a contract change, and Tricare would be responsible for paying for transitioning treatments. If we do the math, the argument that this is too big of an economic burden on the U.S. is still ridiculous.

There are anywhere between 2,000 and 15,000 people in the military (counting active duty and reserve troops). Now, I’m going to be doing an extremely high ball estimate, so we’re going to use 15,000.

Now, the most expensive set of treatments a trans person can get is, genitalia reconstruction (aka gender reassignment surgery), facial reconstruction, and hormone therapy. A reasonable estimate for the cost of these surgeries is about $61,500 upfront plus $1,500 a year for continued hormone therapy.

But, many transgender people aren’t interested (these people could be non binary, or could be using other non surgical methods of dealing with body dysmorphia) or have already had these transitions, so let’s cut the amount of trans people in half.

Let’s also take into account that those prices are for the average consumer, not insurance companies. Insurance companies negotiate prices that they pay hospitals for treatments, meaning they get massively discounted prices for everything. And the insurance company with the most bargaining power is, you guessed it, Tricare. So let’s just cut the cost in half, which is still way higher than what the military would be paying. So we’re left with 7,500 x $30,750 and we get an initial cost of  $230 million plus $750 a year for every transgender person taking hormone therapy, which can be stopped and continued at any time.

Just a reminder, the annual budget of the military is approximately $721,531,000,000, with around $200 billion of wiggle room. So, the military would be able to pay for the initial treatment of every transgender person in the military 3,137 times over, not even including the $200 billion they normally spend over their allowed budget. And again, that is an extremely high estimate for how much they would actually be paying.

So, not only would the government not have to pay anything at all, as cosmetic surgeries for non medical reasons aren’t covered, it would barely even be a dent in their budget.

So, the only possible reason that Trump could have for not wanting transgender people in the military is because he wants to discriminate against them, which isn’t surprising coming from the man who was sued by the Justice Department for discrimination in the past.

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