Former President Barack Obama’s administration announced last year that transgender people could serve openly in the military. This was a big deal and very important for many active-duty members. The Obama administration then announced that the Pentagon would pay for medical treatments related to transition surgery and hormone therapy.
Since this announcement, many republicans in the Senate have tried to discontinue the payment for transition surgery and hormone therapy. For example, Missouri was one of the states to propose an amendment to the spending bill that would put an end to the Pentagon paying for transgender. This past July, President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the military, reversing the progress that the Obama Administration had made.
Currently there are over 1.3 million active-duty members in the military. According to a RAND Corporation study commissioned by the Pentagon, there are about 2,000 to 11,000 (certain number is unknown due to current policies and a lack of empirical data.) active-duty members that are transgender.
President Donald Trump had two reasons for putting a ban on transgender people serving in the military. President Trump declared on social media platform Twitter, that the military should not be “burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
In 2016, the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness asked the RAND National Defense Research Institute to conduct a study to identify the potential health care needs, the potential health care utilization rates, its costs, and also the costs of the health care covering transition-related treatments, look at the potential force readiness and their ability to serve, look at experiences and data of foreign militaries that allow transgender members serve openly.
The results were surprising. There were many key findings in this study such as from the total estimate of transgender members, not all of them would seek gender transition-related treatment.
Estimates from the data suggest that in a year anywhere between 29 and 129 service members would seek transition-related care which would costs money and disrupt their ability to deploy. Another finding was that the costs of gender transitions- related health care treatments are low. It was estimated that health care costs would increase $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year, meaning a 0.04 to 0.13 percent increase in spending.
The third key finding they found was that letting transgender members serve openly had little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness. Even when looking at the data from foreign countries that allow transgender members to serve openly, their results matched up. Therefore President Trump’s reasons for the ban are poor and he should give a better explanation for his action.
Another argument people bring up when agreeing with the ban is that transgender members could have gender dysphoria and having the disorder will affect them during combat. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person’s physical/assigned gender and the gender they identify themselves with.
A person with gender dysphoria could express being uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, uncomfortable with their body, or not being comfortable with the roles society has given to their assigned gender.
People with gender dysphoria may also often experience different levels of distress and problems functioning that are connected to the conflict between the way they feel and think of themselves and their physical or assigned gender.
Many people with this disorder may experience different levels of depression due to members of the society being close minded and not accepting them. The gender conflict affects people in many different ways.
They could change the way they want to express their gender by changing their behavior, the way they dress and their self-image. Some people with gender conflict choose to cross-dress and some may want to socially transition, or others may want to medically transition or start hormone treatment.
According to the DSM-5, prevalence of gender dysphoria is 0.005-0.014 percent for adult born as males, whereas it is 0.002-0.003 percent for adult born as females (American Psychiatric Publishing, 2013). Among children, it is higher in those born as boys, where it is 2-4.5 times greater than those born as girls.
Among teenagers there were no differences between both sexes. With the prevalence so low, using this disorder as one of the reasons why there should be a ban for transgender in the military is a weak argument.
The evidence by the RAND study proved that the readiness in combat for transgender members is no different than the other members and trying to connect gender dysphoria and military readiness will most likely not change the results.