2016 was a bad year for a lot of people. For transgender members of the US military, however, there was a ray of hope as the then-President Obama gave the go ahead to allow them to serve openly. Not only was this a massive step forward for equality but it also safeguarded the rights of these soldiers.
Just over a year later and the issue of transgender people serving in the military has been thrust back into the spotlight. President Trump’s latest plan has been to announce via Twitter, his weapon of choice, that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the US military.
So first, let's look at the logic behind this decision on the grounds of cost. According to Trump, it is simply too expensive to cater for the needs of the trans community in the army. Except it isn’t. According to the Rand Corporation, transition-related costs for transgender personnel in the military would cost an estimated $8.4 million. To put that into perspective, they currently spend around $84 million on Viagra. Whilst I realise that for some people Viagra may be genuinely needed, it is still a surprising statistic. This also presents an obvious flaw in Trump's claim of "tremendous" medical costs for the needs of transgender military personnel.
However, there is another reason why this ban will be a problem and it is down to the simple notion of equality. If members of the transgender community are willing to potentially lay down their lives for one of the biggest economies in the world, can't that nation give them something back? For a lot of the personnel who are in the process of coming out as trans it remains a scary process, especially in an organisation as strict as the military. It doesn’t take a genius to imagine how they must feel to find the doors suddenly slammed in their faces.
The White House has since made an announcement on the issue. US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has said that transgender individuals already serving will be allowed to continue pending a study on President Trump’s ban.
For part of my investigation I looked at what the transgender community are saying about this. One of them, a transgender man called Tom, stated that "Seeing this kind of blatant discrimination against trans people .... is really frightening." He went on to say that this kind of discrimination is “....the kind of thing you hear from random bigots on the street, not from powerful politicians."
This last statement couldn't be truer, especially from the so-called ‘leader of the free world.' The USA is a role-model for many nations, including numerous developing ones, so what might they think if they see this from the States? As Tom put it, "It sets a precedent that poses a very real threat to trans people everywhere." With some countries much less tolerant than Western nations, there is real danger in this decision.
In the end, it is not clear what form this ban will take or even when it will come into force. But what is clear is the injustice of the situation and the weak reasoning behind it. I'll let Tom have the last words in this article, which sum up the situation in a nutshell; "It's not ok."