President Donald Trump is trying to justify his ban on transgender military service by casting transgender people as unfit for service because they take “massive amounts of drugs.”
Appearing on Good Morning Britain in an interview with his friend Piers Morgan, the president was asked about his Defense Department’s policy that bars most transgender individuals from serving openly.
In response, he referenced the hormones that transgender people take as they undergo a gender transition.
“Because they take massive amounts of drugs, they have to — and also, and you’re not allowed to take drugs,” he said. “You’re in the military, you’re not allowed to take drugs.”
Trump added: “They have no choice, they have to [take the drugs]. And you would actually have to break rules and regulations to have that.”
The president also cited the cost of and recovery time required after gender confirmation surgery as justification for the new policy, which allows transgender individuals to serve only if they are never diagnosed with gender dysphoria, never undergo a gender transition, and remain in — and adhere to military physical and dress standards based on — their assigned sex at birth.
“The recovery period [after gender confirmation surgery] is long, and they have to take large amounts of drugs after that for whatever reason — but large amounts, and that’s not the way it is,” Trump told Morgan. “I mean, you can’t do that. So I said, yeah, when it came time to make a decision on that and because of the drugs and also because of the cost of the operation.”
But transgender health care experts say the president’s claims are false.
“The hormones taken by transgender individuals are not prohibited by the military,” Joshua Safer, the head of the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, told The Washington Post. “Medication for transgender people in the military would be — and is currently, for those transgender individuals already serving in the military — handled similarly to other prescribed medication where an emergency interruption is not life threatening.”
Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, which advocates for full LGBTQ inclusion in the military, blasted the president’s “ignorance” about transgender people’s ability to serve.
“President Trump’s factually incorrect defense of his transgender military ban…shows ignorance about the realities of military service and regulations, as well as a lack of knowledge of the science and medical research on transgender people,” Belkin said in a statement. “The Commander-in-Chief has yet again shown that he is developing military policy without regard for the experience of medical professionals, military leaders, transgender troops — or for the truth. This morning’s interview should send chills down the spine of every American who believes our military deserves the highest level of informed decision-making from its leaders, not prejudice masked as policy.
“Trump asserted falsely that active-duty service members cannot take even so much as an aspirin; and he repeated the debunked canards that medical care for transgender service members is unmanageably expensive and that trans troops cannot be held to the same standards as other troops,” Belkin added.
“Studies by the RAND Institute and Department of Defense have found that the total cost of extending medical care to transgender service members would make up a fraction of a percent of the total health care budget for the United States military,” noted Sarah McBride, the press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign. “As with senior military leadership and medical experts, budget analysts have found transgender service members would have no impact on military readiness and unit cohesion. It is deeply disturbing that Trump used his time on foreign soil to continue to peddle outright lies in order to blatantly discriminate against trans people who are bravely serving our country in uniform.”
The Modern Military Association of America, which advocates on behalf of LGBTQ military members, blasted the president for launching “an unwarranted and unconscionable attack” on transgender service members.
“We are disappointed to see the Commander-in-Chief use an international stage to push out blatantly false information about transgender military members who proudly serve this nation,” Andy Blevins, MMAA’s executive director, said in a statement.
“This interview showed the president’s apparent lack of understanding regarding our nation’s transgender service members,” added Blake Dremann, president of SPARTA, another LGBTQ military advocacy organization. “He shared misinformation regarding needed medical care and the cost of that care; however, he concluded that there are standards and service members must meet those standards. We are in complete agreement on that point. Transgender members of the military serving around the world are meeting the standard and accomplishing the mission every day.”