The Ban of Transgender Troops In the US Military

The Supreme Court of the United States has just decided a solider’s genitals could somehow be a threat to national security. On Tuesday, the high court reached a 5–4 decision which removed certain injunctions placed by contesting judges as the lower courts debate whether the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service is unconstitutional. 

The five conservative justices, which include Chief Justice John Roberts and Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Samuel Alito and both of President Trump’s latest appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, all gave the government the green light to move forward with Trump’s controversial 2017 Pentagon memo demanding the prohibition. Readers should know the ban isn’t going into effect just yet due to a remaining lower court injunction which wasn’t included in the dispute heard by SCOTUS — though expect similar results when the time comes around for another hearing.

The court’s left-wing coalition, comprised of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, dissented though were unable to maintain the majority of these injunctions protecting the Obama administration’s rule allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the military as their transitioned gender identity. 

To be clear, the high court hasn’t made an official decision on the merits of either the ban or the previous rule, it merely lifted most of the injunctions brought under consideration by the Justice Department (DOJ). The decision came a few months after the DOJ issued a request to fast-track the case due to transgender individuals being “an issue of imperative public importance,” though failed to explain why. It appears the request was made in a hasty fashion which possibly bolstered their case among reactionary justices. 

This is eerily similar to how the memo was originally introduced into the public square — Commander-In-Chief Donald Trump randomly tweeting a thread, posted without consultation from military officials such as former Defense Secretary James Mattis, which insisted that “victory cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption” he attributed to transgender veterans. 

In effect, the ban would just return the military to the 2016 standards of entry, actively discriminating against transgender individuals, while also restricting any payments going towards “gender-affirming surgeries” unless they specifically “protect the health” of someone already transitioning. According to the administration’s statements provided to CNN, the memo also granted the secretary of defence, following consultation with the secretary of homeland security, the ability to withdraw transgender troops already serving in the military for whatever reason they so choose, such as there being a “threat to national security” left unspecified.

“As always, we treat all transgender persons with respect and dignity,” insisted Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman, in an emailed statement sent to The Washington Post. “[The policy] is NOT a ban on service by transgender persons. It is critical that DoD be permitted to implement personnel policies that it determines are necessary to ensure the most lethal and combat effective fighting force in the world.”

This rationale didn’t impress the transgender activists, however. “For more than 30 months, transgender troops have been serving our country openly with valour and distinction,” Peter Renn, a counsel spokesperson from the LGBT-inclusive group Lambda Legal, said in a public statement via tweet. “Now the rug has been ripped out from under them, once again. You can count on [this]: We are redoubling our efforts to fight.”

The administrative has been rather deceptive in their enforcement policy, making it harder for transgender activists to make the case for their liberty to serve in war. In March 2018 — when the original ban was going to be placed in effect — the Trump administration reportedly issued a second memo to the Pentagon instructing the department to declare “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances,” according to a review of the documents by Vox.

Essentially, the government’s prohibition would extend to all transgender individuals, regardless of their stage of transition, their progress in handling dysphoria, or their medical history. The only exception being made to transgender individuals already serving before the memo’s publication and those who have been “stable for 36 consecutive months in their biological sex prior to accession,” which is insanely odd given it sees new recruits as a threat, yet will continue to allow those who remain within the military industrial complex (MIC). Why the sudden distinction? Is the government suddenly progressive on this issue? Or would restricting current veterans from their duty, after prior elevation to military service status, just be horrible PR?

The conservative case for the ban, fiscally and ethically, is already faulty. Vox cited research from all across the globe showing the cost for transgender medical service and their individual soldiers are incredibly negligible in the grand buck of the United States military budget (the lowest estimate being $598.5 billion annually). A 2016 independent review from The RAND Corporation (a free market institution, of course) found that transgender medical “costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04 to 0.13% increase in active-component health care expenditures”. 

Not all transgender individuals are a ticking time-bomb as the Trump administration’s treatment would suggest, something that is argued by both the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association who found that transitioning does help reduce gender dysphoria, which is defined as “a state of emotional distress caused by how someone’s body or the gender they were assigned at birth conflicts with their gender identity.” Untreated gender dysphoria, however, reportedly leads to “anxiety, depression, and potential suicide” which does account for the high rates among this community. For the military to already accept untransitioned soldiers — which they believe they can review for themselves — why should this big government ban unilaterally contradict the findings of the medical community? Surely doctors have more authority on the matter than the bureaucrats of Washington’s swamp, as routinely mocked by the #MAGA crowd, correct? 

Alas, so much for the tolerant pro-liberty right.

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