A Closer Look at the Supposed “Tremendous Medical Costs” of Transgender Soldiers

The military spends 15 times more on erectile disfunction.

PeteMuller/Getty/iStock

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday that he would ban transgender soldiers from the military, reversing an Obama-era policy that had allowed them to serve openly.

“After consultations with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” the president tweeted. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender [soldiers] in the military would entail.” The announcement surprised Pentagon officials and came as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was on vacation.

In 2016, the Obama administration announced transgender soldiers could serve openly for the first time in history, and in September, the Pentagon said it would also pay for their gender-related surgeries. At the time, Trump—who dodged the Vietnam War draft five times—described these policies as “ridiculous.” “We’re going to get away from political correctness,” he said.

Riley Dosh came out as transgender in December, during her last year at West Point. The 22-year-old, who graduated from the academy in May, dreamed of becoming an Army officer. On Wednesday morning she was woken up by a call from a BBC reporter who asked whether she had seen Trump’s announcement on Twitter about the ban. “It’s devastating, really, to see such an important decision come down so suddenly, without any warning,” she told me. She thought immediately of the thousands of transgender people who are already serving, including some of her friends. “They don’t know if they should come to work tomorrow—they don’t know if they’ll get fired tomorrow. They’re concerned about their careers,” she says.

 

Some Republicans have argued that transgender people might make the military less combat-ready. But when the RAND Corp. studied this question recently, it disagreed: Across all military service branches, it found that only an estimated 10 to 130 active trans soldiers would be less deployable every year because of gender transition medical treatments. That’s a drop in the bucket compared with the thousands of non-transgender soldiers who are kept from the front lines for other health reasons—37,000 in the Army alone in 2015.

Trump’s tweets suggested that trans soldiers rack up “tremendous medical costs” while they are on duty. While the Pentagon’s budget is hundreds of billions of dollars, the estimated cost for transition-related care is about $5.4 million, according to the RAND Corp. Here’s one way to put that in perspective:

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We've never been very good at being conservative.

And usually, that serves us well in doing the ambitious, hard-hitting journalism that you turn to Mother Jones for. But it also means we can't afford to come up short when it comes to scratching together the funds it takes to keep our team firing on all cylinders, and the truth is, we finished our budgeting cycle on June 30 about $100,000 short of our online goal.

This is no time to come up short. It's time to fight like hell, as our namesake would tell us to do, for a democracy where minority rule cannot impose an extreme agenda, where facts matter, and where accountability has a chance at the polls and in the press. If you value our reporting and you can right now, please help us dig out of the $100,000 hole we're starting our new budgeting cycle in with an always-needed and always-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate