One year ago then Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifted the ban barring transgender people from serving in the military. The United States was one of 19 countries in the world whose military allowed transgender soldiers to serve openly. That changed this week when President Trump announced on Twitter that transgender soldiers are no longer allowed to serve in the military. He gave two reasons for his decision—“tremendous” medical costs associated with transgender personnel and the disruption that would occur having transgender soldiers.
Recently the Pentagon has been reviewing its policy of issuing healthcare and services to transgender soldiers. At the same time Vice President Mike Pence has been quietly working Congress to reverse year-old policies funding transition medical procedures for transgender soldiers. But what are the numbers being discussed behind transgender people serving in the military?
Last year, the RAND Corporation published a study on the issue. It estimates that there are currently 2,500 transgender soldiers serving in the military. The cost of covering their gender transition RAND estimated to be between $2.4 million and $8 million per year of the military’s $600 billion budget. Relatively speaking, hardly the “tremendous” medical costs Trump cited in his announcement—especially when one factors in how much President Trump’s weekend golf getaways cost the tax payers.
Moreover, in the year since Ash Carter lifted the ban on transgender soldiers from serving, there has not been one public report of indiscipline or social issues regarding transgender soldiers in the military.
The move by Trump against transgender people serving in the military comes as a blow to those who had put faith in his rhetoric on the campaign trail and at the Republican Nation Convention last summer supporting the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community.
The President’s announcement today seemed to catch the Pentagon by surprise. There appeared to be little coordination between the two and a Pentagon spokesman stated that there is no immediate plan to deal with the policy reversal but will work with the White House on the “new guidance provided by the Commander-in-Chief on transgender individuals serving the military.”
As of yet there is no plan on how to deal with transgender soldiers currently serving.