In the aftermath of his tweet wishing LGBT Americans a happy Pride, President Trump defended his transgender military ban, asserting the policy is necessary because “they take massive amounts of drugs.”
Trump made the comments Wednesday during his trip to the United Kingdom in an interview with Piers Morgan on “Good Morning Britain,” who asked him about the anti-trans policy.
Initially, Morgan framed the question to Trump in terms of justifying his Pride tweet and his support for his administration global initiative to decriminalize homosexuality. Trump referred to anti-gay criminalization laws as “terrible.”
But then Morgan asked Trump how he could justify banning transgender people from the military if he wants to support LGBT people across the globe.
“Because they take massive amounts of drugs,” Trump said. “They have to, and also, and you’re not allowed to take any drugs. You know, in the military, you’re not allowed to take any drugs. You take an aspirin, and they have to after the operation. They have to. They have no choice. They have to. You would actually have to break rules and regulations in order to have that.”
The Trump administration implemented the transgender military ban in April after the U.S. Supreme Court essentially green lighted the policy as litigation against it proceeds in court.
As Morgan noted, the cost of transition-related care for transgender people in the military is “minuscule.” According to Pentagon data, the Defense Department spent nearly $8 million to treat more than 1,500 transgender troops since 2016, when openly transgender people was first implemented during the Obama administration.
Morgan pointed out the cost of drugs to treat erectile dysfunction under the military health care system was higher than the estimated cost of transition-related care. Trump said he “didn’t know” that was the case.
Asked again by Morgan if the transgender policy was contrary to protecting LGBT human rights around the world, Trump said, “It what it is.”
“Look, massive amounts — and people are going in, then asking for the operation,” Trump said. “The operation is 200,000, 250,000 dollars, and getting the operation, the recovery period 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. I mean, you can’t do that.”
Trump concluded transgender people getting into the military to have gender reassignment surgery and the cost of transition-related care were the reasons he banned them from the armed forces.
“So, I said, yeah, when it came time to making a decision on that and because of the drugs and also because of the cost of the operation,” Trump said.
When Morgan pointed out transgender people are serving in the military with distinction, Trump said he has no beef with them.
“Well, I’m proud of them,” Trump said. “I’m proud of them. I think it’s great, but you have to have a standard, and you have to stick by that standard. We have a great military, and I want to keep it that way. Maybe they’d be phenomenal. I think they probably would be, but you have very strict rules and regulations on drugs and prescription drugs and all of these different things. They blow it all out of the water.”
Aaron Belkin, director of the San Francisco-based Palm Center, said in a statement Trump’s comments were totally without merit because he “repeated the debunked canards that medical care for transgender service members is unmanageably expensive.”
“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,” Belkin said.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement “should stick to the facts” on transgender service.
“Transgender service members meet the same physical and medical standards as their cisgender counterparts,” Smith said. “As members of the one percent of the population willing to serve our nation, they deserve praise for their sacrifice, not judgement and discrimination.”