Gender and Development

Bullets and Bombs Know No Gender, Trans or Otherwise

President Trump’s ban preventing transgender Americans from serving their country, something he himself deferred from doing multiple times, not only weakens our national security but also further expands the chasm that exists today in America. In his Op-Ed, former Air Force Intelligence Officer Eric Seng argues against the ban on transgender troops in the military. 


President Trump’s ban preventing transgender Americans from serving their country, something he himself deferred from doing multiple times, not only weakens our national security but also further expands the chasm that exists today in America.  His reasoning behind the ban is extraordinarily baseless and does little to hide his bigotry and contempt for diversity.

In his August 25th, 2017, announcement of this ban, Trump stated that, “[the] military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”  This argument, as are many of Trump’s, is devoid of facts and logic.

Take for example the 2016 study conducted by the nonpartisan global policy think tank RAND Corporation into the impacts and costs of allowing transgender Americans to openly serve in the armed forces.  According to this study, which was commissioned by the Pentagon, the additional medical costs related to transgender military personnel are estimated to only add between $2.4 million and $8.4 million to an annual military healthcare budget that exceeds $6 billion.

Regardless of the RAND study findings, ban supporters argue that transgender Americans will join the military not out of patriotism or service to country but simply to receive taxpayer-funded transition-related medical treatments.  Although this is a possibility, consider a February 13th, 2015, Military Times report, which stated that the Department of Defense spent over $82 million on erectile dysfunction drugs like Cialis and Viagra in 2014 alone.  Using the argument of the ban’s supporters, should all men be banned from military service because some of them may join simply to receive taxpayer-funded erectile dysfunction treatments, which cost the Pentagon more than transition-related medical treatments?  Of course not.  That would be counter-intuitive, just as banning transgender Americans from serving based on the same reasoning.

Adding insult to injury are Trump’s frequent golf outings in the brief time he has been in office.  As of October 20th, 2017, Trump has been on 69 taxpayer-funded golf outings at the cost of over $74 million. Trump claims the “tremendous” costs of allowing patriotic and selfless Americans to take the military oath of enlistment is not justified but yet spending over $74 million of taxpayer money to go golfing is?  And this from a president who as a candidate stated in August 2016 that, “I’m going to be working for you.  I’m not going to have time to play golf.”  The medical costs associated with transgender service members is not the issue.  The issue lies with the man who spends more time in a golf cart than he does leading the country.

Trump also claimed that this ban is based in part on the “disruption” that transgender service members would cause, thus reducing military readiness and effectiveness.  These purported disruptions would be caused by the perceived inability of transgender service members to deploy due to their medical treatments.

According to the same RAND study, out of the 1.3 million active-duty service members, only an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 are transgender, of which only 25 to 130 have deployment restrictions due to transition-related medical treatments.  To put this in perspective, the Army alone has 50,000 active-duty Soldiers unable to deploy due to a myriad of reasons.  The RAND study findings make it abundantly clear that an overwhelming majority of transgender service members stand ready to deploy at a moment’s notice and put their lives on the line in defense of their country.  Their service does not present any meaningful “disruption” to the effectiveness and lethality of our military.

As the title implies, bombs and bullets have zero regard for gender.  That is to say that putting bombs on target, firing a rifle, flying a fighter jet, or conducting any other military duty is not contingent on one’s gender but rather in their abilities to do so.  Being qualified and capable to execute tasks expeditiously and effectively are what matter in the military.  Denying patriotic Americans from serving their country based solely on their self-identification as transgender weakens our national defense.  In a country where less than 1 percent of the population serves on active-duty, we as a country need as many qualified and capable people to serve as possible.  Other countries have transgender members well and faithfully serving in their militaries, including several of our closest allies.  Anyone who is capable and willing to take the oath of enlistment, knowing the dangers and challenges that doing so entails, and wearing the American flag on their shoulder deserves to serve their country.  Their selflessness and love of country should be embraced, not turned away.

Eric Seng served for ten years in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence officer and deployed multiple times supporting search and rescue operations as well as a joint special operations task force executing counterterrorism missions.  He is currently pursuing his second master’s degree through NYU’s Center for Global Affairs. 

Please note that opinions expressed in this article are solely those of our contributors, not of Political Insights, which takes no institutional positions.

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