Last week the Trump administration launched one of the most aggressive attacks on the LGBTQ community to date. On Wednesday, Donald Trump announced via Twitter that “After consultation 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. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
This sudden and hostile move came as a shock to many, including most of the armed forces themselves. Also shocking was the reaction in some secular circles in favor of the ban.
Most discouraging is the support for such hate within the humanist community. If you don’t support the universal equality of everyone in the LGBTQ community, including transgender individuals (that’s what the “T” stands for), you are not a humanist; and this is not up for debate. As the social media coordinator for AHA, I see continual evidence that many people on social media are confused about what humanism is.
You see, there are reasons humanists call themselves humanists in addition to calling themselves atheists, agnostics, nontheists, and so on. It’s implied and understood that humanists don’t simply lack a belief in a god, but hold a strong belief in the greater good of humanity and therefore strive to contribute to the progress of humanity, the planet, and science through activism. The humanist position undeniably includes a deep dedication to social justice and equality for every individual on this planet, no matter their religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or sexual identity.
As a secular organization who works with, is comprised of, and fights for the rights of secular, atheist, humanist, nonreligious Americans, we often get lumped in with those who believe that nonbelief is enough; that attacking Christianity and Christians will create or at least fill us with some sort of satisfaction. But if that’s all we did as humanists, we wouldn’t be humanists. We would have to tell ourselves that the religious right doesn’t influence every attack inflicted upon the LGBTQ community, women, people of color, and the poor. We’d have to pretend that the GOP isn’t passing legislation that is clearly encouraged by religious conservatives, who want to construct the shining “City Upon a Hill” where wealthy, white men are securely in control.
The two most common social media arguments in favor of the ban either focus on financial concerns or that the idea that being transgender is a mental illness.
The Financial Argument:
Some “humanists” are concerned about how accommodating transgender soldiers will affect the military budget …
What is perhaps the most humorous thing about “The government shouldn’t have to pay for transitions,” is that the people making this claim will often add a disclaimer that tends to go something like “I’m all for LGBTQ,” or “I don’t mind them but…,”, or “I don’t care what they do as citizens, but…,” as if by saying so their stance, which is void of fact or logic, will be less discriminatory. It isn’t. In fact, the amount of money the government would actually spend on transgender care is pennies compared to the majority of other military expenses.
The RAND Corporation recently released a survey assessing the impact transgender military personal would have on government spending and military readiness and found there was no significant change to current standards. Expenditures would increase between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually which is 0.04- to 0.13-percent of the budget. That is far less than the Pentagon’s healthcare bill of $49.3 billion or the $84 million the military spends on erectile dysfunction medication.
The Mental Illness Argument:
Some of our followers, believe it or not, actually agreed with this ban because they see being transgender as a mental illness…
While the majority of the medical community is moving away from the idea that being transgender is a mental disorder, some still subscribe to the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases (ICD) which continues to classify it as such.
Those claiming that their argument for mental disorder is logical because the suicide rate is higher among transgender individuals than for current military personnel are missing two important factors: oppression and discrimination. Transgender individuals live in a society that demonizes them and shuns them as outcasts. They are often targets of violent hate crimes. Their own government creates new rules that exclude them from the normal privileges of US citizenship. Even the supposedly “open-minded” individuals like “humanists” and so-called “freethinkers” claim transgender people have a mental illness. It’s pretty simple: you can’t treat someone like dirt and then punish them for feeling depressed about it. In fact, a study last year found that most of the emotional and mental distress experienced by transgender individuals is the direct result of the violence and social rejection they experience on a regular basis.
Whether you support the ban because of the imagined financial burden it would place on government spending or because you think transgender individuals are somehow mentally unfit for combat, the Trump administration is relying on people like you to believe these lies in order to gain support for their bigotry. This is a blatant attack against the LGBTQ community. It’s fueled by discrimination and false facts and proves their lack of understanding about trans individuals. It’s clear hypocrisy when other questionable items in the budget remain without debate or review. Just Thursday, Congress passed H. R. 3219, a bill that increases the Department of Defense budget, spending for fossil fuel research, and spending for military and veteran care.
There are already some 1,300-6,500 transgender men and women in the military. Not all of them will seek gender transition treatment and some of them have already gone through gender reassignment. And let’s also dispel the myth that a lot of them have joined the military simply to get healthcare. These are men and women who have enlisted to serve our country and they should be treated with the same dignity and respect as any solider would.
Lastly, if you happen to be that “humanist” who agrees with a ban on transgender soldiers because you oppose war or the military in general, consider this: military service in this country is a voluntary choice. Agree with war or not, every able American (which transgender individuals very much are) should have the freedom to make that choice for themselves.