The founders of the United States once identified “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as inalienable rights granted to every person. Unfortunately, these rights are not currently enjoyed by America’s transgender citizens.
Last week, the Supreme Court allowed President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military to go into effect, reasoning that subsidizing gender-affirming services is a financial burden on the nation. However, Trump’s rationale for refusing to allow transgender individuals in the military is baseless and indicative of a greater societal issue: misperceptions of transgender people.
To address the greater picture of transgender representation we first address Trump’s transgender ban and its overarching negative impacts. An estimated 150,000 transgender individuals have risked their lives to protect and serve America at all costs.
Trump called on the U.S. military to prevent transgender men and women from enlisting, citing “the egregious costs” of gender-affirming services, which include hormone therapy, sex-reassignment surgery and legal processes coinciding with transitioning. However, his claims are factually inaccurate; the demand for gender-affirming surgeries is low, and the cost of such operations is negligible to the overall military budget. The costs for covering transition-related health care measure to about $4.2 million, a mere 0.0000071 percent of a $590 billion military budget.
If the budget can allocate over $41 million to supplying Viagra to deployed servicemen, then the budget should be sufficient to pay for any gender-affirming services a transgender soldier might need.
For Trump to declare trans people unfit for the military when he himself dodged the draft five times during the Vietnam War clarifies the president’s hypocritical attitudes toward transgender military service. Trump continually praises those who serve in the military and paints himself as a bastion of support for our service members but then turns his back upon them once a trans identity is involved. As someone who claims to support both the LGBTQ community and the military, Trump has a funny way of showing it.
This attempt to remove trans people from military service illuminates a greater issue concerning media portrayal and public perception of trans people. When the term “transgender” is thrown around, we think of the man-in-a-dress stereotype the media often portrays, or the mentally ill, delusional pervert that lurks in women’s restrooms. It is fairly common for transphobic slurs to be thrown around on television or for transgender individuals to be labeled as “disgusting, abnormal, or pathetic freaks of nature.” By projecting false caricatures of trans people in the media, the general public adopts a negative perception of the trans community as a whole.
However, this is a false narrative that completely dismisses the true nature of the trans community; the transgender community is a loving, caring community full of pride — no different from the rest of the American public. We are still human; we still carry with us the same inalienable rights as everyone else.
Political fervor and media portrayal have created a strawman of what a transgender person really is, creating a narrative that trans people are unfit for service and must be barred from the military. Since the Obama administration allowed openly transgender servicemembers in the military, the military has not found many issues concerning transgender people serving. The Supreme Court’s decision only demeans the risks and sacrifices that transgender service members make.
The decision to remove transgender individuals from the military is nothing more than the consequence of media and political misrepresentation.
Instead of accepting the premise of this political movement, we must shift the culture to accept trans people and respect their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of their own happiness. To create such a societal change may seem like a daunting task, but the United States has always been defined as a nation of constant transition.
We have enacted this change before; the Obama presidency saw great strides in trans rights, and now, it is our turn to take up the mantle and ensure that every citizen has the rights they deserve.
Al Castillo is a freshman in School of Foreign Service and Riley Christensen is a sophomore in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.