The policy could possibly involve the removal of all transgender individuals currently in the military. Opponents argue this would reduce the recruitable population and leave vital military positions vacant.
While we don’t know the true count, a 2014 study by the University of California Los Angeles estimated there are 8,800 transgender individuals serving active duty with an additional 6,700 serving in the military reserves and National Guard. These 15,500 people amount to 0.7 percent of the military’s nearly 2.1 million personnel. Other studies report the percentage as even less. With this in mind, it is a poor argument to say that transgenders make up an irreplaceable part of the military.
While transgender military personnel do not constitute a significant portion of the military, the cost to allow them to remain would be disproportionately high.
When Trump initially proposed the ban, he cited the reason as “tremendous medical costs.” Articles by The Atlantic, People, and Scientific American debated this, pointing to a 2016 study by the RAND Corporation suggesting that the medical costs associated with transgender soldiers would roughly equate to an average $5 million annually, a drop in the massive military budget.
The study cited provides lower estimates than the UCLA and Williams Institute studies. Naturally that would make costs look low. Second, the articles only look at the costs of the initial gender transition surgery.
Changing genders is a complex and expensive process. It includes counselling, hormonal supplements, and associated cosmetic surgery that is currently covered by the taxpayer. The study accounts for only active-duty soldiers and doesn’t include estimated costs for reserves and retired military families.
Disregarding this, RAND’s numbers still reveal a disturbing proportion. The study estimates $5 million per 79 transgender soldiers (the estimated annual military gender transitions) for a total estimated increase of .085 percent in military healthcare costs. The 79 transgender soldiers make up .006 percent of the active military.
This means each transgender soldier undergoing reassignment costs roughly fourteen times more than a typical soldier. Perhaps the costs don’t equate to what some believe are “tremendous medical costs,” but transgender-related healthcare alone amount to a grossly disproportionate cost for a small demographic.
But the economic arguement is not the only one to be made.
The issue is not that military personnel are uncomfortable around transgender individuals, it is about allowing soldiers to do their jobs. Hillsdale’s veterans attest to the stress induced by military service.
“The emotional stress and fatigue of training and combat is already extremely difficult on the most mentally fit man,” said sophomore Jacob Damec, a former four-year member of the Army’s 75th Ranger Regiment. “The majority of [transgender people] already deal with emotional issues. They do not belong in a place where mental strength is absolutely critical.” The Williams Institute estimates 46 percent of trans men and 42 percent of trans women attempt suicide.
Senior Christopher Jacobson, a former Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he worries that publicly allowing transgender military personnel will create conflict.
“The main strength of our military is its ability to enforce uniformity and discipline and reduce individuality,” Jacobson said. “That’s why we wear uniforms and have grooming standards. Allowing new, non-traditional groups into military units means that the unit needs to make concessions for that new group.
I got out right as ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ was getting repealed, and suddenly there was a list of words that we could no longer say and activities that we could no longer do because a gay marine might not like it. Not only did it put unnecessary strain on our unit, but it bred resentment… and created an ‘Us and Them’ mentality. It will be worse with transgender soldiers and marines because they will require more concessions.”
Though the answer may be seen as controversial and insensitive, it is necessary.
“The purpose of the military is to be a fighting force, not a place for social experimentation,” said sophomore Adam Buchmann, who has already undergone training for the Marine Corps. “It adds a whole layer of unnecessary complexities that can become costly.”
The military is meant to defend the United States and its freedoms. This cannot be done if the fighting force is weakened. It is unwise to allow an extremely costly demographic with a propensity towards mental and emotional disorders to serve in a fighting force that induces a stressful environment.
Jack Hall is a freshman studying the liberal arts.