President Donald Trump used a June 5 interview with Piers Morgan of “Good Morning Britain” to stigmatize transgender service members and make false, incoherent, and generalized statements about healthcare costs associated with them.
Trans vets are not having it.
The president sat down with Morgan during his trip to Europe and defended his discriminatory decision to ban transgender service members from the military, saying that “they take massive amounts of drugs” while suggesting trans people are going into the military to pay for their surgical procedures. During his rambling statements, he also falsely said people are not allowed to take drugs in the military.
“We’d actually have to break rules and regulations in order to have that,” he asserted about trans service members taking medications. “It is what it is… The operation is $200,000, $250,000, the recovery period is long, and they have to take large amounts of drugs after that … You can’t do that.”
Then, referring to the policy banning transgender service members that went into effect on April 12, Trump continued, “So I said yeah, when it came time to make a decision, and because of the drugs, and also because of the cost of the operation.”
The president’s answers during the interview were so unhinged that even the Department of Defense had to begin cleaning up his mess in the aftermath. The DoD refuted Trump’s claims in a statement to Gay City News on June 6, stating that the military “covers all approved medically necessary treatments and prescription medications.”
Furthermore, the department asserted that those who were diagnosed with gender dysphoria prior to April 12 are “generally exempt” from the ban and they “may serve in their preferred gender and will continue to receive all medically necessary treatment.”
Trump’s out-of-touch statements also created the false impression that all transgender people undergo surgery and receive the same form of healthcare. That kind of rhetoric not unexpectedly drew swift condemnation from trans people who have served in the military.
Camden Ador, a trans Navy veteran who lives in Queens, stressed that treatment related to hormone imbalances is by no means unique to trans people. While trans folks will commonly meet with endocrinologists as they seek to undergo hormone replacement therapy, there are cisgender people receiving similar treatment.
“I can almost guarantee that there are cisgender service members who are getting treatment for these imbalances,”Ador told Gay City News in a written statement. “They receive the same ‘drugs’ that transgender people are prescribed when they begin HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Thus, this claim by President Trump is unfounded and based in bigotry, as most of us have already come to realize.”
Ador also debunked Trump’s claims that surgery can cost $250,000, saying that his own top surgery slated for August costs $11,000. Doctors told him that recovery time is expected to be between four and six weeks, which shoots holes all over Trump’s claim that the “recovery period is long.”
“The frustrating part about this all is so many people just take what he says as truth,” Ador added. “There are so many areas of this country where Americans have never even met a transgender person and don’t find it necessary to educate themselves. Instead, they hear what the president claims, and they don’t question it at all.”
Shawn Skelly, a Brooklyn-born, Suffolk County-raised retired Navy commander, former director of the executive secretariat in the Department of Transportation under President Barack Obama, and co-founder of a new advocacy organization known as Out In National Security, spoke of the bigger picture — that Trump’s comments as well as the ban simply fit in line with the president’s longer-term goal of targeting the trans community.
“It’s the most prominent part of a broader administration campaign to drive transgender people out of the mainstream of American society through the deliberate removal of legal recognition and protections of every sort,” she said.
The president has indeed mounted a multi-pronged effort to strip trans people and the wider LGBTQ community of their rights. Among numerous other actions, the administration is giving healthcare providers the right to refuse care or discriminate against trans patients, is fighting the citizenship of the children of bi-national LGBTQ parents, is trying to give shelters and other facilities the ability to ban trans people from staying there, and has stripped protections from transgender students to use bathroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.
And while that anti-LGBTQ campaign seems coordinated, Trump’s raw, unfiltered words during the interview with Morgan also revealed an especially intimate view of the president’s perspective on these issues — a perspective that is as out-of-touch as it is harmful. Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann, who serves as the president of SPART*A — a group focused on trans military veterans — said Trump’s false statements about medical care showed his “lack of understanding regarding transgender service members.”
Kristen Rouse, the out lesbian founder of a veterans advocacy group known as NYC Veterans Alliance, echoed those sentiments.
“The president’s comments only continue to spread misinformation and prejudice about those who have served and are serving with honor and dignity in our nation’s military,” Rouse said.