Editorial: New front opens in war against transphobia

ON June 14, 2016 then presidential candidate Donald J Trump tweeted a blatant lie to his millions of followers at home and abroad.

“Thank you to the LGBT community! I will fight for you while Hillary brings in more people that will threaten your freedoms and beliefs.”

At the time these 135 characters were published, we did not know this was an untruth. Of course, we all strongly suspected, because Mr Trump has proved himself over many, many years to be a chronic and compulsive liar. Not only that, the notion that Mr Trump would fight for anyone other himself, a direct relative or business associate is preposterous.

The only surprise in this instance is that it took more than 400 days for Mr Trump’s falsehood to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Usually, we are not kept in suspense for so long. The evidence was published in three consecutive tweets from the president’s account on the evening of July 26.

In them he said the US government “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity”, before concluding with our “military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous disruption that transgender in the military would entail”.

Allowing transgender people to openly serve in the US military, which was a Barack Obama policy introduced last year, has not caused “tremendous disruption”. 

In fact, it has barely caused a ripple at all, except among the Republican Party’s conservative base.

Research by the reputable RAND Corporation estimates that between 1320 and 6630 active duty personnel identified as transgender, which equates to between 0.1 and 0.5 per cent of the US military. Hardly an overwhelming number.

And if Mr Trump’s worries extend to the cost of medical care – be it sex-realignment surgery or other therapies – RAND estimates this at $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year.

Considering the US spends somewhere in the order of $600 billion annually on defence, this is a drop in the ocean.

Transgender people are people first and transgender second. If they want to serve their country – even a country that does not appreciate them – they should be allowed.

The war against transphobia is slowly being won and, ironically, Mr Trump’s decision will only hasten it.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor