Trans­gen­der ban shames Trump

The Hamilton Spectator - - OPINION - John Roe

Re­tired Sgt. Shane Ortega is the first openly trans­gen­der per­son to serve in the United States Army. Don­ald Trump is the first for­mer re­al­ity-TV star to serve as pres­i­dent of the United States. Ortega risked his life in com­bat mis­sions in Afghanistan and Iraq — twice as a woman and once as a man. Trump, though of the right age, de­clined to risk his life in com­bat or serve in the mil­i­tary at all dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

Last week Trump sum­mar­ily banned trans­gen­der peo­ple like Shane Ortega from serv­ing in any way in the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary.

If you can­not al­ready see why the pres­i­dent’s de­ci­sion is not only hyp­o­crit­i­cal but plain wrong, let us ex­plain. Coun­tries around the world that es­pouse free­dom and hu­man rights have made room in their armed forces for gay and trans­gen­der peo­ple. Canada lifted its ban on trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als in its mil­i­tary 25 years ago, spurred on by a court rul­ing. Seven­teen other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Bri­tain, Aus­tralia, Ger­many and France, al­low trans­gen­der mil­i­tary per­son­nel. The United States adopted this in­clu­sive pol­icy in 2016.

Then came last week’s Trumpian tweet that de­clared Amer­ica “will not ac­cept or al­low trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als to serve in any ca­pac­ity in the U.S. mil­i­tary.” With­out ex­plain­ing whether the ban ap­plied only to fu­ture re­cruits or those al­ready serv­ing, Trump ar­gued the mil­i­tary “can­not be bur­dened with the tremen­dous med­i­cal cost and dis­rup­tion” that would ac­com­pany trans­gen­der per­son­nel. De­spite this claim, Amer­ica’s mil­i­tary seems to be do­ing quite well with the es­ti­mated 1,320 to 6,630 trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als in its bulging ranks of 1.3 mil­lion per­son­nel. The amount be­ing spent on gen­der re­as­sign­ment treat­ment for trans­gen­der per­son­nel is mi­nus­cule — $8.4 mil­lion a year at most out of a $6.6-bil­lion mil­i­tary med­i­cal bud­get.

Mean­while, the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary hap­pily spends $84 mil­lion a year on Vi­gara and other drugs to treat erec­tile dys­func­tion.

The best ex­pla­na­tion for Trump’s de­spi­ca­ble act of dis­crim­i­na­tion is that he was try­ing to win the sup­port of Repub­li­cans in Congress to build his wall on the Mex­i­can-U. S. bor­der. Some Repub­li­cans op­pose spend­ing mil­i­tary funds on re­as­sign­ment treat­ment. Trump’s ban looks like an of­fer to scratch their backs if they’ll scratch his.

In­ter­est­ingly, many Repub­li­cans, such as Sen­a­tor John McCain, crit­i­cized Trump’s ban. They be­lieve — and we agree — that if trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als want to serve their coun­try in the mil­i­tary and have the qual­i­fi­ca­tions and abil­ity to do so, they de­serve a place. That’s how it is in Canada, and to its credit the Cana­dian Armed Forces used the oc­ca­sion to re­it­er­ate its pol­icy of wel­com­ing trans­gen­der peo­ple in its ranks.

But Amer­ica has stepped back­wards as Trump adds trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans to the Mus­lims and Mex­i­cans he’s al­ready per­se­cuted. Com­man­der-in-chief ? Sad!

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