‘Trans people serve at higher rates than most Americans’: UCLA experts on Trump’s transgender military ban

‘A ban on military service by transgender individuals would negatively impact thousands of transgender people’

Yesterday, Donald Trump announced on Twitter his decision to ban trans people from military service, declaring: “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.”

The decision has been roundly criticized as a step backward from the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that was lifted only five years ago under President Obama.

Many that disagreed with Trump’s statements cited a 2014 study out of UCLA’s Williams Institute, a research based institute out of UCLA’s School of Law. The group is focused on LGBTQ+ issues and conducts polls, studies, legal research, and public policy analysis.

The peer reviewed study “Transgender Military Service in the United States” estimates “approximately 15,500 transgender individuals are serving on active duty or in the Guard or Reserve forces.” The 15,500 figure has been cited countless times, even by high-profile individuals such as Caitlyn Jenner.

Some questioned the validity of the number for belief that it was too high, as trans people are such a small percentage of the overall population.

The Williams Institute’s Jody Herman said in a press release to The Tab: “It is a consistent finding in research that has been conducted over many years that transgender people serve in the military at rates even higher than the U.S. general population.”

The Williams Institute’s study says that “29.6 percent of respondents [to the study] assigned male at birth reported that they have served in the armed forces along with 6 percent of those assigned female at birth.” Compare that to The New York Times’s 2013 estimate that less than 0.5 percent of the general population currently serves in the armed forces.

In regards to Trump’s statements about the cost of transgender people in the military, the Williams Institute calls into doubt his assertion.

In a second study conducted by the Institute, it was discovered that “little to no costs [were] associated with providing transition-related health care for employees.” What’s more, it was reported in a study conducted by the RAND Corporation that “transition-related health care in the military would be at most $8.4 million over the course of one year, representing 0.13 percent of the $6 billion annual health care expenditure for active duty service members.”

Overall, Herman says, “A ban on military service by transgender individuals would negatively impact thousands of transgender people who are already serving and in no way would such a ban be a cost-saving measure.”

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