Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion ban­ning trans­gen­der troops is wrong and hurt­ful in many ways»

The Denver Post - - NEWS | DEN­VER & THE WEST -

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump went into big­oted over­drive this week, ban­ning trans­gen­der troops on the an­niver­sary of the mil­i­tary’s de­seg­re­ga­tion, and all to ap­pease enough con­gres­sional hard­lin­ers to ap­prove his down­pay­ment on a bor­der wall with Mex­ico.

Trump reached his im­pul­sive de­ci­sion with­out con­sult­ing his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Jim Mat­tis. He didn’t even give the man a chance to re­turn from va­ca­tion to deal with the an­nounce­ment. No one in the White House seemed to know how to ex­plain the de­ci­sion or how the ban was to work. No Pen­tagon ef­fort was in the works to­ward end­ing the year-old pol­icy that al­lows trans­gen­der peo­ple to serve.

The bomb­shell — dropped, as usual, on Twit­ter — con­tained not a trace of hu­man­ity or re­spect. Worse, the en­tire spec­ta­cle seemed like a stupid at­tempt to launch a big, shin­ing dis­trac­tion on the day he knew Repub­li­can se­na­tors would blow another shot at re­form­ing Oba­macare, de­spite Trump’s strong-arm at­tempts to bully and shame them into be­tray­ing their con­stituents.

But here we are. Sud­denly, thou­sands of trans­gen­der hu­man be­ings sworn to pro­tect our coun­try and sup­port the com­man­der in chief are left to won­der where they’re to go from here.

What an em­bar­rass­ment to the of­fice of the pres­i­dency — a po­si­tion meant to serve all Amer­i­cans.

Trump’s de­ci­sion is wrong and hurt­ful in many ways, but let’s start with his so-called rea­son­ing: that trans­gen­der tran­si­tion costs would be too high and that trans­gen­der troops would dis­rupt the crit­i­cally im­por­tant mis­sion of pro­tect­ing Amer­i­cans.

Pres­i­dent Obama or­dered that med­i­cal treat­ment be cov­ered for trans­gen­der troops. The cost is es­ti­mated to be about 0.04 per­cent to 0.13 per­cent of spend­ing for troops presently serv­ing. Had the pres­i­dent aimed his bud­getary pen at such spend­ing, he would have at least raised a de­fen­si­ble ques­tion. De­fen­si­ble, but wrong­headed, as surely the United States of Amer­ica can af­ford to sup­port those who risk their lives to serve.

Of course, Trump went all in, shat­ter­ing any prior claim from the cam­paign trail that he would stand by the LGBT com­mu­nity.

In do­ing so, Trump also loses the de­bate on whether trans­gen­der troops would erode mil­i­tary strength. A re­cent study by the RAND Cor­po­ra­tion com­mis­sioned by the Pen­tagon found no im­pact to morale and co­he­sion, oper­a­tional ef­fec­tive­ness or readi­ness in other coun­tries where trans­gen­der troops are wel­come.

This is no small point. Where the na­tion’s mil­i­tary is con­cerned, the ex­pec­ta­tion is that troops are strong and se­cure enough within them­selves and with each other to han­dle the tremen­dous re­spon­si­bil­ity and the dan­ger. But what have other re­cent re­forms shown us? Women are now al­lowed to serve in any com­bat role they can prove to com­man­ders they are ca­pa­ble of han­dling. The end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” has shown that al­low­ing gays and les­bians to serve openly hasn’t been a prob­lem.

So it’s not soft-headed to ac­cept RAND’s find­ings, and con­tinue with the Obama-era de­ci­sion to al­low trans­gen­der peo­ple to serve.

Colorado’s Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion is mostly to be praised in stand­ing against Trump’s de­ci­sion. Con­gress­men Ken Buck and Mike Coff­man ob­jected. Sen. Cory Gard­ner did as well.

We’re struck by the story of Naval Petty Of­fi­cer Alec Kerry, who ex­plained that her de­ci­sion to tran­si­tion to Eva came in part from val­ues taught by her com­man­ders.

“Strangely enough, I think what the Navy taught us about in­tegrity was what gave me the courage to come out. I had to be hon­est about who I was with my­self and the peo­ple I served with.”

Trump should lis­ten to Kerry. A lit­tle per­sonal hon­esty on his part might fi­nally pre­vent such aw­ful em­bar­rass­ments. The mem­bers of The Den­ver Post’s ed­i­to­rial board are Wil­liam Dean Sin­gle­ton, chair­man; Mac Tully, CEO and pub­lisher; Chuck Plun­kett, ed­i­tor of the ed­i­to­rial pages; Me­gan Schrader, ed­i­to­rial writer; and Co­hen Peart, opin­ion ed­i­tor.

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