Edited by- Dhananjai Kalra
On July 26, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, announced through a series of tweets that their government would no longer “accept or allow” transgender people to serve in the U.S. Military. President Trump cited “tremendous medical costs” and “disruption” as the impetus of this decision. This is a reversal of a policy under the Obama administration, which lifted the ban.
Trump’s claim of “tremendous medical costs”, while may seem hyperbolic, seems to hold some solid ground. The Philadelphia Center for Transgender Surgery prices male to female transition surgery at $140,450 and female to male at $124,400.
According to a 2016 Rand study, there are estimated 3,960 active members of the military who are transgender. If all of their surgeries were paid for, it would cost the American taxpayers $492,624,000, equivalent of nearly seven U.S. Air Force F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. This number is considering the cheaper $124,400 price of surgery, applicable only to women who want to become men. In case of men transitioning to women, a hefty burden of $556,182,000 would be put on the backs of tax-payers.
Economics aside, the U.S. Military is extremely strict with regards to enlistment standards. The U.S. Military currently takes in 20% of applicants. Mental health plays a reasonably large part in admission into the Military.
The American Psychiatric Association defines gender dysphoria as “a conflict between a person's physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify.” It is the mental illness most transgender individuals suffer from.
According to Department of Defense (DOD) Directive 6130.3 and DOD Instruction 6130.4, ‘serious’ issues such as history of suicidal tendencies and even discussion of suicide commands rejection. Certain stutterers, depressed individuals and people with ADD/ADHD cannot serve in the military. Even involuntary urination or defecation after the 13th birthday is disqualifying. These are only some of the enlistment standards.
Gender dysphoria leads to various other mental issues such as depression and self-harm behaviors. Suicide rates among transgender individuals are highest among any group, approximately 41%, regardless of getting surgery. These traits would be unconditionally disqualifying to individuals who are not transgender.
Therefore, an argument to be made is that people suffering from gender dysphoria should not be given a pass if the readiness of the military, and the utilization of taxpayers’ money would be affected by their mental illness. If people with attention-deficit disorder aren’t allowed to join the military, why are people who have a much worse mental disorder allowed?
Another argument is that the military should not discriminate on the basis of one’s gender identity, but rather their physical and mental capability. If they can perform the required tasks, then they should be allowed to serve, regardless of what their gender might be.
The aim of a military force is to serve and protect its citizens. It has certain standards which need to be upheld. A separate set of standards cannot be established for a group of people for the sole purpose of not seeming discriminatory.