By: Dani Langevin – August, 2017
In June of 2010, in the second column I had ever written for the Valley Patriot, I wrote about what “Don’t ask, don’t tell” cost the military. It read, “It is estimated that there are almost 70,000 homosexuals serving in every branch of the military. Since 1993, over 13,500 of them have been discharged, many from critical operations. The initial cost of these losses is the safety of our nation and strength of our military. The monetary cost is approximately $363 million having been spent on ‘separation travel’- recruiting and retraining replacements.” Thanks to president Obama, that was changed, jobs were secured, as was our country’s safety, and LGBTQ+ military members were finally given equality.
Last month, #45 (I will not use the title given to him per his election; he hasn’t earned it) stated that he will “mercilessly ban transgender people” from serving in the military in any capacity. His reason is that it is costing the military too much to pay for their gender reassignment surgeries. Really? I decided to do a little research to find out just how much these surgeries cost the military. It didn’t take me long to get the real bottom line and glean possible reasons for this ban.
There have been a few different studies/analyses on just how many transgendered people are in the military. According to a RAND analysis commissioned by the Department of Defense, there are between 1,300-6,000 transgendered persons in the military. I’m not sure why there is an over 4,000 count differential in this study. There was another study conducted a couple of years ago by the New England Journal of Medicine that found the number to be just under 13,000 active duty transgendered military personnel.
So, let’s go with the big number to make 45’s claim that it is costing too much to support their surgeries. If all 13,000 received gender assignment surgeries, this would cost the armed forces about $4-5 million dollars in medical coverage. Sounds like a lot, I know. Keep in mind that many transgender people never have reassignment surgery or they’ve had it before entering the military. Let’s do some real calculating. Remember back in 1993 when over 13,500 homosexuals were discharged from the military? Remember the cost to send them home, and to recruit and retrain their replacements? Let me remind you-$363 million! 45’s claim that it is just too costly to keep transgendered military members is mathematically inaccurate and fiscally irresponsible. By keeping these fine upstanding and courageous men and women in the military the country would save $358 million.
So, what could really be going on? Every few weeks it seems 45 is either firing someone, they quit, and/or he’s bashing a member of his staff, Congress or the FBI on his Twitter account. This has been met with 45 himself being bashed by many members of the conservative party. It smells like 45 is feeling the heat and is afraid of losing the support of his base. Is it possible that he believes that by targeting transgender military members he’ll gain that support back? Statistically, his support base is not a group that embraces diversity of any kind. Another reason could be that months ago Pence, known for his disdain for the LGBTQ+ community and love of conversion therapy, was lobbying House members to pass an amendment that would deny healthcare coverage to the military’s transgender population. He had Paul Ryan’s support on this. They were both confident that it would pass. When it didn’t, what better way to combat this embarrassing defeat than to get 45 to ban transgender people from serving in the military in any capacity whatsoever claiming that they’re too expensive. This is such a blatant act of discrimination and targeting, so much so, that they weren’t even insightful enough to check into the monetary impact on either side-their main reasoning for instituting it. It’s not about the money; it’s about singling out and bullying of a particular minority group, something 45 is very adept at and is not afraid to do.
Here’s some more proof that it has nothing to do with money. According to an online article by The Atlantic, “…the Department of Defense budget, as a whole, is expected to be proposed at $640 billion. The F-35 cost $1.5 trillion. Military bans cost taxpayers $437 million,” and annually, I’m sure you’ve heard, the, “military spends $84 million on medication for erectile dysfunction.” With all of this being said, there’s no way 45 is concerned about the cost of gender reassignment surgeries to the U.S. military’s healthcare system or any cost to the taxpayers especially if we look at how many times he visits his resort in Florida.
I’m very concerned about what this ban is going to do on his supporters’ psyche. After issuing his “travel ban”, America saw a spike in brazen verbal and sometimes physical attacks on Muslims. I have no doubt this will happen in the LBBTQ+ community. How are we to feel safe when the leader of our country has minimized the efforts of the very people who have volunteered to keep this country safe?
Come the end of this month I have to go back to my job as an educator and as the co-advisor of the GSA. What do I tell my students who recognize themselves as part of the LGBTQ+ community? How do I convince them that they are loved, accepted, and respected when the person who has sworn to, “Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” has made it clear that to him and his base, that they do not fall under that promise? What this ban is really costing this country is our principles, dignity, and respect.