Trump’s Trans Military Ban Is Just Social Conservative Virtue Signaling

By Stewart Carrier

This morning on twitter President Donald Trump announced that the “United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

President Trump cited the “tremendous medical costs” associated with trans individuals as one of his reasons. To be sure, a study commissioned by the Department of Defense has estimated that medical costs associated with transgender military personnel could range between $2.4 and $8.4 million dollars. But I’m skeptical these are the president’s true motivations. 

If budget slashing was really so important to Donald Trump he could have found many ways to save money in the DoD’s budget. Just look at the cost the military is spending on erectile dysfunction medication, estimated at $84 million annually according to the Washington PostThe United States military spends $41 million annually on Viagra alone.

As a Libertarian, I find waste in government to be abhorrent. I find it morally wrong that we are forced to subsidize transition surgeries for military personnel. However, there are far more egregious wastes of tax dollars and to argue that wasteful spending was the rationale behind this rings disingenuous.

Ultimately, Donald Trump’s announcement was textbook nationalist virtue signaling. This is classic political smoke and mirrors. Mired in controversy over his administration’s inability to repeal Obamacare, in-fighting with his Attorney General, and constant scrutiny from the media regarding alleged collusion with Russia, Trump’s move today is an easy concession to his socially conservative, anti-LGBT supporters. 

Personally, I believe that regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity, they should be allowed to serve in the military if they meet general safety and health requirements. However, this is President Trump’s military, and he has the authority to shape its policies.   

Discrimination against the trans community might offer this beleaguered administration a short reprieve from the non-stop onslaught emanating from both sides of the political spectrum, but it is ultimately short-sighted. Even some conservative Republicans, such as Senator Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, John McCain (Arizona), have come out against this decision.

Trans woman and former member of SEAL Team 6, Kristen Beck, said in reaction to the announcement, “Being trans doesn’t anyone else. We are liberty’s light. If you can’t defend that for everyone that’s an American citizen, that’s not right.” Unfortunately, Donald Trump has made it clear that he disagrees. Many people serving in our military who believed it was safe to be themselves are now at the mercy of a man who is using them to shield himself from his enemies.  

This announcement is a complete reversal of the changes that the Pentagon had already begun to make. Transgender troops now have uncertain futures and a president who has disregarded their well-being and dedication to the United States. They are now political pawns used to satisfy a base hungry for a win at any cost.  

Donald Trump has again proven that his skills as president lie solely as media manipulating showman. Six months into his presidency we know little, if anything, about his guiding philosophy or principles. It’s an easy headline that paints Trump as a savior to social conservatives and one which temporarily shifts the focus from his failures and erratic behavior.