Op-Ed

Military spends more on Viagra than on transgender recruits. So why ban trans? | Opinion

President Trump has reversed an order by former President Obama and banned transgender Americans from military service.
President Trump has reversed an order by former President Obama and banned transgender Americans from military service. Getty Images

The transgender community is under attack by the federal government, and President Trump is leading the charge.

On June 14, a federal appeals court ordered a judge to reconsider her ruling against Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from the military. The judge had ruled that the ban likely violated the constitutional rights of transgender service members and recruits, but the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said her ruling did not give the military’s judgment enough deference and told her to take into account executive privileges in reweighing her decision.

Trump has said his administration reinstituted the ban the Obama administration overturned in 2016, affecting almost 15,000 transgender service members, because the armed services prohibit prescription drug use and the cost of care is too high.

Trump’s claims simply are not true.

The entire medical budget for gender transition-related care is a tenth of what the armed forces spend annually on Viagra and Cialis. The Pentagon spent only $8 million on transgender health care since 2016, a very small percent of America’s $50 billion annual healthcare budget.

Also, the military also does not prohibit the use of prescription drugs. Military personnel can and do take them, with approval, for medical conditions.

The appeals court’s recent decision is yet another setback for the transgender community under a hostile Trump administration. Last year the Department of Health and Human Services drafted a memo to other federal agencies that would remove the legal status of millions of transgender people by imposing an outdated definition of gender as “immutable biological traits identifiable by or before birth.”

Ordering the exclusion of transgender identity under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that bans gender discrimination in education programs receiving government financial assistance, could open the door to increased workplace discrimination, reduced access to school facilities for trans youth and less access to healthcare.

These attacks on transgender Americans’ civil liberties should upset all Americans, especially we celebrated the Stonewall uprising’s 50th anniversary in New York City last week. After all, it is said that the first person to throw the brick that kicked off the Stonewall rebellion was a black transgender woman.

Marsha P. Johnson, sometimes known as the “Saint of Christopher Street” along with fellow transgender activist Sylvia Rivera, who was of Puerto Rican and Venezuelan heritage, were key figures in the fight against police harassment of the LGBTQ community in the early-morning hours of June 28, 1969. It was because of their bravery that we can even celebrate “pride” this month.

As proud Americans, we must stand up against the Trump administration and “throw bricks” at all the transgender protection rollbacks, especially this unjust military ban. Transgender Americans should be able to freely serve in the armed forces without limitations. This is not just an attack against the transgender community, it’s an attack on American civil liberties. Today, it’s the transgender community under attack. Who could it be tomorrow?

All four military service chiefs have testified before Congress that there were no known negative effects in the three years after President Obama allowed transgender people to serve openly.

Proponents of the ban argue that it “merely” requires transgender service members to serve in accordance with their biological sex and cannot have a diagnosed history of gender dysphoria, which is distress or discomfort people may experience if their gender identities or expressions do not align with societal expectations.

But forcing transgender service members to conform to a gender with which they do not identify is akin to the defunct “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that forced gay, lesbian, bisexual or non-heterosexual services members in the closet.

Under Trump’s new policy, all transgender medical care is banned. Any service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria, can remain in the military only if they undergo “counseling” to suppress those feelings and hide their claimed identity. These practices are harmful and ineffective, forcing transgender individuals to come out, face possible hostility from fellow service members and add additional pressures while serving in the field.

Trump is denying access to qualified individuals willing to defend and serve our country. He is refighting civil-rights battles that already have been fought and won. America is growing weary of his discriminatory actions. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose the trans military ban, including almost half in the Republican Party.

The transgender community makes our nation and military stronger. For change to happen, we need to make our voices heard and collectively stand against any American undergoing discrimination. Call your representative, support transgender advocacy groups, learn how to become a better ally. We can’t sit idly by and watch any group be targeted and discriminated against.

One may not agree with or understand transgender Americans, but as Americans we must agree and understand that we all have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And those inalienable rights must be protected for all.

Benjamin Carlton is an actor, activist and co-founder of BMe Community.

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