Transgender troops: Is Trump’s ban for real?
The timing couldn’t have been more telling, said Phillip Carter and Amy Schafer in Slate.com. Last week, “on the 69th anniversary of President Harry Truman’s order to desegregate the armed forces,” President Trump suddenly tweeted that he was banning transgender Americans from serving “in any capacity” in the military. The commander in chief claimed the estimated 15,500 serving transgender troops cause “tremendous medical costs and disruption.” But even if the military agrees to foot the bill for trans-related surgeries—an Obama-era edict currently under Defense Department review—it would still cost only up to $8.4 million a year. That’s just 0.1 percent of the military’s total health budget, and 10 times less than its allocation for erectile dysfunction drugs. The Pentagon, caught off guard by Trump’s impulse-driven tweets, said it did not take them as an official directive and would continue to let transgender people serve, for now. Nonetheless, the president has betrayed the LGBT community and delivered a cruel slap in the face to thousands of people loyally serving their country.
Trump is right on this, said Walt Heyer in The Federalist.com. Many studies have shown that transgender people have high rates of depression, stress, anxiety, and suicidal behavior—even after undergoing gender-reassignment surgery. In the “high-stress conditions of military life,” such fragility is a recipe for a disaster—one that could well endanger other troops. I agree, but I just wish Trump had done this properly, said David French in NationalReview.com. He should have waited for the completion of the review into transgender military service, then persuaded a Republican-controlled Congress to pass a law that the next president couldn’t easily reverse. For this president, alas, it’s always “much easier just to tweet.”
The president’s decision wasn’t “about military efficiency”—it was about politics, said Emma Green in TheAtlantic.com. Christian conservatives in the House reportedly demanded Trump adopt a transgender military ban in exchange for supporting funding for his border wall. Whatever his motives, Trump “spectacularly misread the politics of his decision,” said Marc Ambinder in TheWeek.com. Several GOP senators, conservative columnists, and military leaders immediately came out against the proposed policy change, and polls show the majority of Americans support transgender troops. On this issue, Trump may be forced to make a quiet retreat. ■