LGBTQ advocates say the president is making the bogus claims to “pander to his base.”
Donald Trump continued to defend his controversial transgender military policy on his recent visit to Europe. The policy—essentially “don’t ask don’t tell” for trans service members—went into effect in April.
Trump first announced the decision to reverse the Obama-era policy that affirmed the equal rights of trans service members in a 2017 tweet.
The president again defended the policy during an appearance on Good Morning Britain last Wednesday (June 5), citing the high financial cost and drug use. “They take massive amounts of drugs, they have to—and, also you’re not allowed to take drugs in the military, and they have to after the operation,” Trump said.
Actually, prescription drug use is not prohibited in the military, as NBC News noted. For example, last year the Navy decided to allow pilots to undergo mental health treatment with psychotropic medication while maintaining their flight status.
“And also, people were going in and asking for the operation,” Trump continued, referring to the same 2016 Obama-era policy that covered the medical cost of gender-affirming surgery for service members. “The operation is $200,000, $250,000. And getting the operation, the recovery period is long, and they have to take large amounts of drugs after that.”
The claim that the financial cost of allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military would be prohibitively high was already debunked years ago. The New York Times reported in 2017 that a study commissioned by then-Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter found that it would “cost little and have no significant impact on unit readiness.”
In Trump’s original tweet from 2017, he stated that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
Another interesting point is to compare the money spent by the military on erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra with the cost of transgender health care. As Good Morning Britain co-host Piers Morgan noted, the difference is rather large.
The Military Times reported in 2017 that “the estimated $8 million per year that the Defense Department will spend on health care for about 7,000 transgender troops is minuscule compared to how much the military spends to treat sexual dysfunction in men.”
The Times first reported in 2015 that in the year prior, the Defense Health Agency had spent $84.2 million on ED drugs for active-duty troops, eligible family members and retirees. It is no surprise that the millions spent on subsidizing Viagra was never an issue.
LGBTQ advocates say Trump is not only misinformed, he’s merely pandering to his base by pushing the ban.
“The interview showed the president’s lack of understanding regarding transgender service members, and he shared misinformation regarding the medical care they need and the cost of that care,” said Blake Dremann, a transgender Navy officer and president of the LGBTQ military group SPART*A.
“For him, it’s never been an issue of financial expenses, nor is it an issue of drug use,” said Dr. Jennifer Conti, an OB/GYN physician who treats transgender veteran patients. She said the president is merely inflating the financial cost of trans health care to “pander to his base.”