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Pres­ident Donald Trump announced on July 26 that the “United States gov­ernment will not accept or allow trans­gender indi­viduals to serve in any capacity in the US mil­itary.”

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.