Trump’s trans military ban

Just six months after taking office, in July 2017, Donald Trump declared that trans people would be banned from working for the US military.

Six months after that, in February 2018, (since resigned) Secretary of Defence James Mattis issued a memo formally defining the policy, which was adopted about a month later. This was, almost immediately, met with legal challenges, but the Supreme Court has strongly signalled that they will support the ban, and the Pentagon have announced that they will begin implementing it.

The policy does inadvertently brush against the truth that no one, trans or cis, should work for the military; it is a project of murderous imperialism. But this policy comes from a man who supports that project (so long as, of course, it does not personally burden him). Instead, it is based on lies intended to marginalise trans people.

The clearest lie is that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs”. The truth is, the costs would be, at most, about 8 million dollars annually (Schaefer et al., 2016). That’s less than a couple of the tanks the Army doesn’t even want. Nor would there be any significant disruption: this same lie was told about racial integration, women’s integration, and gay people. What little disruption occurs is caused by bigots, not marginalised people. One might argue that temporary leave for medical transition could be disruptive, but it would be far less so than prohibiting trans people from working for the military at all. (Again, disrupting the military wouldn’t be a bad thing, but this wouldn’t do it.)

But of course, the real reason for banning trans people from working for the military is nothing to do with cost or disruption; it’s to marginalise trans people. This is made most clear in the recognised hate group Family Research Council’s five-point plan to harm trans people, claiming that “recognition should be actively discouraged if not forbidden outright”. (The similarity of this language to Janice Raymond’s (1979) proposal that “the problem of transsexualism would best be served by morally mandating it out of existence” should serve as a reminder TERF ideology is a conservative ideology.) It is not the only attempt to marginalise trans people by this administration, of course. From attempts to define trans people out of existence, to rescinding protections for trans students and refusing to even track complaints, and even proposing to allow medical professionals to deny any medical care to trans people (among other changes that weaken health care quality and access) โ€” in the name of religious freedom.

Access to military employment is certainly not a major priority for trans activism. Other concerns should be given more resources, and the elimination of the military is necessary for liberation. But this discrimination against trans people must not be accepted; we must cede nothing.

Raymond, J. (1979). The transsexual empire. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press.

Schaefer, A., Iyengar, R., Kadiyala, S., Kavanagh, J., Engel, C., Williams, K., & Kress, A. (2016). Assessing the Implications of Allowing Transgender Personnel to Serve Openly. RAND Corporation. doi:10.7249/RR1530

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