Trump's right: Transgender patriotism isn't the issue - military readiness is

Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Hill on July 28, 2017.

At a campaign event with veterans in Virginia, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump responded to a question about “social engineering and political correctness” in the military — including “transgender rights” — by saying, “We’re gonna get away from political correctness … some of the things they’re asking you to do and be politically correct about are ridiculous.”

President Trump is now fulfilling that promise by reversing a radical policy imposed by the Obama administration, without a thorough review, on July 1, 2016. Trump announced this week “that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

Although liberals are howling about the reversal of the Obama policy, all President Trump has done is return to the policy that was the status quo throughout American history, until 2016. Military medical standards had listed a “(h)istory of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex” as a disqualifying physical condition, and under the heading of “Learning, Psychiatric, and Behavioral,” conditions that are disqualifying were, “Current or history of psychosexual conditions . . . including but not limited to transsexualism . . . (and) transvestitism.”

It was nothing but “social engineering and political correctness” — not any new medical research — that led the Obama administration to reverse this policy. Since the reversal, service members have been allowed to “come out” by publicly identifying as transgender. A second phase of the Obama policy, allowing the military to recruit people who identify as transgender, was due to take effect on July 1, until Defense Secretary James Mattis announced a last-minute delay of 6 months.

The service chiefs reportedly requested a longer delay of two years, and Air Force General Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress there was “disagreement on the science.” Perhaps they realized that “gender reassignment surgery” — at a cost to taxpayers of up to $110,000 per person — could not be deemed “medically necessary” when even President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services had concluded that “the clinical evidence is inconclusive” on this point.

In any case, President Trump’s “consultation with . . . Generals and military experts” resulted in the right decision.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) also deserves tremendous credit for raising this issue in Congress. Her amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which would have prohibited the use of taxpayer money to pay for gender reassignment surgery or hormone treatments intended to change the gender of a service member, was narrowly defeated — but it helped focus attention on this issue. Since the historical policy, as well as the Obama policy that overturned it, were both administrative (not statutory) in nature, Trump resolving the issue through executive action was actually the more appropriate solution, and resulted in a rollback of the entire Obama policy, not just the funding provisions.

President Trump was right to be concerned about “the tremendous medical costs and disruption” caused by allowing those who identify as transgender to serve in the military. The Family Research Council’s own analysis of the potential costs — showed that the direct medical costs (surgery and hormones) could be nearly $1 billion dollars over 10 years. Meanwhile, the lost time due to service members not being deployable or taking special leave could drive the total cost to anywhere from $1.9 billion to $3.7 billion over 10 years.

For service members to be considered medically fit, they are supposed to be deployable anywhere in the world at any time, without the need for specialized medical care. Yet those who have had gender reassignment surgery do need specialized medical care, and they require hormones for the rest of their lives. This — not the question of whether such individuals are patriotic or want to serve their country — must be the decisive factor in setting military policy.

Unfortunately, the policy’s price tag only tells part of the story; the cost in military readiness is just as steep.

An estimated 1.5 million hours would be wasted on “sensitivity” classes that include lessons on how to handle biological men in women’s showers, “male pregnancies,” and off-duty drag. As Defense Secretary James Mattis complained as recently as this week, “Service members (are) spending too much time on senseless training that is really a waste of time.”

Every cent spent on this politically-correct exercise is money that could prepare our troops for war. Every second wasted in transgender etiquette is time that could be spent on the rifle range. President Trump was exactly right to say, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory” over our nation’s enemies. Every American should thank him for prioritizing our military’s war-fighting capabilities by lifting this unnecessary burden from those preparing and fighting to achieve that victory.