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Trans soldiers: Just the facts

Queer & There


On July 26, 2017, President Donald Trump used his primary method of communication – Twitter – to drop a bombshell on the U.S. military, stating that transgender service members will no longer be allowed to serve openly. As a retired U.S. Marine officer and infantry platoon sergeant, Trump’s callous disregard for the lives and experiences of transgender service members is in direct conflict with the facts.

I enlisted in 1994, serving in California, Okinawa, North Carolina, the Congo, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, and Fallujah during Operation PHANTOM FURY. After returning from Iraq in 2005, I was commissioned and served as a judge advocate in Virginia, Rhode Island, Okinawa, JTF Guantanamo Bay, and finally at the Pentagon for my final duty station before retiring at the rank of Captain.

Despite Trump’s tweet and some of the Republican’s attestations otherwise, it has been proven over the past year, along with in-depth studies conducted before repeal, that transgender service members are not the “disruption” that Trump alleges and the total cost per year of medical care for transgender troops is “relatively low.”

This data comes from a June 30, 2016, Department of Defense-commissioned study by the RAND Corporation which scientifically estimates only a 0.04 – 0.13 percent increase in active-component health care expenditures at a maximum estimate at $8.4 million per year. Let’s compare this figure to other health care related costs: A single F-35 costs $95 million; the president has flown to his Mar-a-Lago resort seven times so far since his inauguration, costing taxpayers at least $25 million; the annual cost of the military’s treatment of erectile dysfunction is $84 million, $41.6 million on Viagra alone. To put these numbers in context, providing health care will cost at the maximum 8.4 percent of one F-35, 32 percent of the cost to send Trump to Mar-a-Lago during just the first 2½ months of his presidency, or just 9.5 percent of the cost of military erectile dysfunction treatment.
People like Air Force Staff Sgt. Logan Ireland, Navy Lt. Cdr. Blake Dremann, Army Drill Sgt. Ken Ochoa and the several thousands of actively serving troops are the proof that open service actually increases our military’s readiness, not detracts from it. Even Congressional Republicans voiced their opposition to Trump’s unilateral declaration, including Arizona’s Sen. John McCain, who is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Alabama’s Sen. Richard Shelby and South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsay Graham, who is a retired Air Force judge advocate.

In the face of bipartisan Congressional support and substantial evidence for open transgender service, President Trump is blind to the actual needs of our military, instead focusing on his own myopic need for self-aggrandizement. I urge you to support all of our troops and celebrate the rich diversity that truly makes America great.

Semper Fidelis!

Emma Shinn spent 20 years as an enlisted Marine and as a judge advocate before retiring and opening her own private criminal law practice dedicated to representing service members at courts-martial and administrative separation proceedings.

Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the Colorado Independent on July 27. Since then, President Trump has signed a directive that will prevent the military from accepting new transgender members. The New York Times notes that Defense Secretary James Mattis will be given wide discretion over whether to retain current service members, saying that a senior White House official said that such decisions would be based on multiple considerations, including budgetary concerns and military readiness. The Times adds, “The official also said that the military would no longer pay for sex reassignment surgeries unless withholding such funds would harm the health of someone already transitioning.”

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