The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Denial of service

Photo by Photo by Cristian Aguirre

Senior Ellie Scott served in the U.S. Air Force from 2009 – 2013.

In a series of three tweets posted July 26, President Donald Trump announced a ban that would exclude transgender Americans from serving in the U.S. military, sparking controversy over issues like military efficiency and trans-related health care coverage.
The ban will make the roughly 1.4 million adults that identify as transgender in the United States ineligible to serve, according to the New York Times.
“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,” read Trump’s tweets following his initial directive.
Since Trump announced the ban, six transgender soldiers filed lawsuits with the federal court in August, arguing that the ban will affect their medical treatments and career opportunities and requesting that it never go into effect, according to the New York Daily News.
The Trump administration has requested that the federal court not consider any lawsuit opposing the transgender service ban because there is not yet policy to supplement it. However, since Defense Secretary James Mattis is temporarily allowing transgender troops to serve, the plaintiffs have no legal basis to file suits currently.
For Ellie Scott, recreational parks and tourism sciences senior and transgender veteran, the military served as an opportunity for her to gain discipline and function as an adult.
Scott first found out about Trump’s tweet via text from a friend and although she does not have interest in serving again, she is annoyed by Trump’s ban because of the lack of input from military officials and the American people.
“People are going to serve their country because they want to serve their country,” Scott said. “If they’re physically and mentally capable of passing all the other exams, why does it matter what they have in their pants?”
Gender identity was something Scott struggled with internally and socially from a young age, she said. Scott also said she repressed her identification with the female gender until she got to A&M in 2006 for a mechanical engineering degree. Scott struggled her first semester, resulting in her withdrawal from the university to join the Air Force.
According to an analysis funded by the Department of State, there are currently between 1,320 to 6,630 active-duty transgender servicemen in the U.S. military. Historically, the military has not covered gender transition surgery. If the military were to begin covering these transition-related procedures, it would annual.y cost between $2.4 million and 8.4 million, in addition to the whole Department of Defense’s estimated annual budget of $640 billion, according to the same analysis.
Those opposed to transgender service, such as Tyler Craven, Class of 2017 and rifleman in the 1st Battalion 7th Marines who served in Afghanistan, argue that continuing to allow transgender people to serve would be too costly if the military began to cover sex reassignment surgery, in addition to the current coverage of hormone therapy and mental health counseling. Craven said the incentive to join the military to a non-combative job for medical benefits could also weaken military readiness.
Former President Barack Obama’s approval of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 helped expand access to trans-related procedures and medications to many transgender Americans by preventing sex discrimination in health care policies, according to Hilary Booth, Nurse Practitioner at Beutel Health Center.
Since insurance companies perceive sex reassignment surgeries as cosmetic procedures, not as medical necessities, they therefore do not always provide coverage, Booth said. According to Booth, gaining approval for sex reassignment surgery depends largely on a person’s community, resources and support system.
“Most surgeons are going to make you wait and be on medication, do hormones, be going through the transition for a year before they’ll start thinking about [surgery],” Booth said. “They just want to see that documentation that you are committed to it. Medication, we can stop, and effects usually reverse. But surgery is forever.”
According to the website, some health insurance companies still exclude trans-related coverage in their policies, but these exclusions may be considered illegal in some cases because the anti-sex-discrimination provisions of the affordable care act extend to gender identity. Scott said it is unjust for political ideology to hold such a dramatic influence over who receives medical care.]
“It’s about these people’s mental health,” Scott said. “If you want to go start arguing about how it’s purely cosmetic, braces are cosmetic. So do you want to remove dental coverage for all of these soldiers’ kids too because you don’t feel like taxes should cover cosmetic surgeries?”
Those opposed to transgender service have also raised concerns about unit stability. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders supplemented Trump’s tweets by saying transgender people serving “erodes military readiness and unit cohesion” and that the decision was made based on military efficiency.
Craven said his support of Trump’s ban is not of a discriminatory nature, but rather stems from a concern for unity in the critical environment of active combat.
“A ban on open transgender [soldiers] is good because the military is not a social experiment,” Craven said. “We’re not trying to implement new strategies to see how they work … when you’re out there in firefights every other day, sleeping a foot from each other for seven months with no AC, you get to talking and you learn everything there is to know about each other and you bond and any kind of difference that could create tension is just magnified.”
According to Scott, the unit cohesion and morale argument has been used in the past by people who have tried to keep minorities out of the military. Scott said if someone isn’t capable of doing the job, they shouldn’t make it through basic training or technical school and if transgender people can meet the proper standards, there is no legitimate reason to kick them out.
“We don’t let people who can’t make it emotionally through basic training into the military because if you don’t have a breakdown in basic when they’re trying their hardest actively to break you, you’re not going to have a breakdown because you’re on hormones,” Scott said.
According to Craven, the culture of the U.S. military has contributed to the country’s power and success and therefore should not be abandoned. Although much has changed in terms of race and gender, there should be a predominant culture in the military that remains unchanged, Craven said. Physical and psychological limitations should be made to keep certain people from joining the military to preserve unit efficiency and stability, especially in combat arms positions, Craven said.
Because the nature of active combat is high stress, Craven said the smallest differences among members of a unit reveal themselves and have the ability to divide members on deployment. Any personal problems and differences are exposed and amplified in active combat, affecting the entire group’s dynamic, Craven said.
For example, Craven recalled one of his deployments in which his unit was predominantly comprised of Republicans, who often expressed opposition to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign. However, one of his buddies in his unit considered himself a Liberal and expressed his support for Clinton after a long day of active combat in which the unit lost some of their men.
“We [had] high strung emotions,” Craven said. “And everyone gets extremely angry and goes ‘So you think it’s okay for Hillary Clinton [to be president] even though she let guys die, just like you saw ours die? You’re just going to let her become president?’ And it ended in a fist fight and that’s just over politics.”
Trump signed papers in August instructing the military not to move forward with former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s 2016 announcement allowing transgender troops to serve openly. However, it may take until March 2018 to create and implement a policy to supplement Trump’s initial directive.
As debate continues over the functional and financial effects of Trump’s ban, Scott said it is important not to lose sight of what is at stake for transgender Americans and what such a policy would mean for their careers and opportunities in the future.
“It’s so frustrating to me that I am a political football basically just because of who I am and what clothes I want to wear, you know?” Scott said. “I’ve served my country.”

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