The difficulties and frustrations of open transgender military serviceBottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Trans Progressive Thursday, August 3rd, 2017
Commentary: Trans Progressive
“I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.”
We’ve pretty much all heard that quote from Martin Luther King Jr’s speech I Have a Dream. King had a dream of freedom and equality for black Americans; he dreamed “that one day right there in Alabama little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
So many other civil rights and justice movement leaders over the years though could echo the thought “that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.”
July 26, President Trump announced on Twitter, over a series of three tweets, “that the United States Government will not accept or allow … transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” The President cited “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail” as reasons transgender service members shouldn’t be.
A 2016 Department of Defense (DoD) commissioned Rand study indicated the cost of health care to transgender service members would be $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year, an increase of 0.04 percent to 0.13 percent of the entire military health care budget. That conclusion mirrors that of a 2015 study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, which reached a similar conclusion. The costs are not “tremendous.”
Neither is service by transgender military members “disruptive.” They’ve been able to serve openly for the last year and haven’t compromised mission readiness. And, the Rand study foresaw little impact on mission readiness by medically transitioning service members.
What we’ve had interjected into the decision-making of the president is the beliefs of social conservatives; a backlash to the gains toward ordinary freedom and equality gains by transgender people in the United States.
The “tremendous medical costs” fabrication appears to have originated with Peter Sprigg of the socially conservative Family Research Council (FRC). In an FRC report entitled Transgender Policy Could Cost Military Billions Over Ten Years, Sprigg uses distorting and misleading means to estimate a transgender military health care cost of $190 million to $370 million a year, which he framed in terms of $1.9 to $3.7 billion over 10 years.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri), who proposed the Hartzler Amendment [text: “Funds available to the Department of Defense may not be used to provide medical treatment (other than mental health treatment) related to gender transition to a person entitled to medical care under chapter 55 of title 10, 8 United States Code], echoed the cost estimates. A paragraph in a July 26 media release from her office stated “Hartzler noted that this current policy of providing and paying for transgender surgeries hurts readiness and is projected to cost more than a billion dollars over the next 10 years. This is a conservative estimate with other studies projecting over $3 billion in medical costs over a 10-year period.”
The frustration is that sound financial analysis, and costs to mission readiness, are lost to unsound and deceptive cost analysis.
It’s in the difficulties and frustrations of the moment that I know I can see in the short term successful pushback against ordinary freedom and equality; against transgender people in their march forward for justice.
“But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”
King said that later in the I Have a Dream speech.
In the end, transgender people will be able to serve as their whole selves in the military services – I believe that. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was wrongly passed into law in 1993, but repealed in 2010, and gay, lesbian and bisexual service members could finally bring their whole selves to their duty stations. What President Trump tweeted about transgender service members won’t be the final word.
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