Transgender Minnesotans fear proposed military ban promotes discrimination

- Citing costs and distractions, President Donald Trump over Twitter Wednesday morning announced that the U.S. will no longer accept or allow transgender people in the United States Military.

The decision could soon reverse a policy put in place by the Obama Administration last year and caught many transgender service men, women and veterans off guard.

“I served in the U.S. Air Force from 2006-2012 as an Arabic Language Intelligence Analyst,” said Nicole Vanderheiden of Transforming Families Minnesota.

Vanderheiden, a well-decorated veteran who served in Iraq as a staff sergeant, made her transition in 2013 –before then President Obama’s decision allowed transgender men and women to serve openly.

“After that, a number of troops had come out as transgender,” she nodded.

Vanderheiden was taken aback to learn President Trump will ban trans Americans from serving in any branch or military capacity.

“It almost seems like entrapment to say, 'you can come out now,' and kick everybody out or whatever they're going to do,” she continued before admitting she now fears for her brothers and sisters in the armed forces who, like her, identify as transgender.

“Are they safe from their peers? Are they safe from discipline?” she wonders.

According to a 2014 Williams Institute UCLA School of Law study on Transgender Military Service in the U.S., an estimated 150,000 trans Americans have served in our military or are currently on active duty. That’s 21 percent of that particular community, compared to 10 percent of the overall population.

“That shows you that transgender people want to serve their country and be patriotic just like anyone else,” said Ellie Krug, the president of Human Inspiration Works.

Krug touts herself as a unifier, not a divider. Through Human Inspiration Works she speaks and trains corporations and government agencies across the country on general inclusivity.

“I’m appalled that a whole class of individuals has just unilaterally been erased from the military,” she said.

While President Trump claims the military cannot afford to “accommodate” transgender men and women as they transition, Ellie argues he can’t afford not to.

“It costs about $30,000. For half the cost to replace a knee, where it might be important for someone to play tennis, for half that cost, you can allow somebody to live authentically. And in many cases save their life,” Krug said.

Researchers with the Williams Institute UCLA School of Law in a 2014 study reveal the prevalence of suicide attempts among respondents to a National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) is 41 percent. This compared to 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population.

Further reason Krug says the President can afford to reconsider the ban is because it "fails to treat all humans with dignity."

“What this does is tell the community at large, the country at large, that transgender people don’t matter?”

On the other side, RAND, a non-profit organization that works to improve policy research, provides exhaustive estimates of transgender service members’ potential medical costs.

Wednesday afternoon, David O. Barbe, M.D., the president of the American Medical Association, issued this statement:

“There is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from military service. Transgender individuals are serving their country with honor, and they should be allowed to continue doing so.

“AMA policy also supports public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria as recommended by the patient's physician. According to the Rand study on the impact of transgender individuals in the military, the financial cost is a rounding error in the defense budget and should not be used as an excuse to deny patriotic Americans an opportunity to serve their country. We should be honoring their service - not trying to end it.”

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