In 2016, a study was conducted by the Rand Corporation on transgender military personnel. This study focused on answering questions pertaining to transgender people openly serving in the military. The study found that in 2016, there were an estimated 1,320 to 6,630 transgender service members on active duty. The study found that in their limited research on foreign militaries, having transgender members did not affect unit cohesion or readiness. The Rand study also found the medical cost of transgender soldiers was fairly cheap, and only costing the United States military about $8.4 million out of a $50 billion budget. That is only 0.13 percent of what the U.S. military spends on the overall health care expenses of thse on active duty. For comparison: according to the Defence Health Agency, the Department of Defense spends about $41.6 million on Viagra and $84.42 million on total erectile dysfunction prescriptions.
On July 30, 2016, after the Rand study was published, former Secretary of defense Ash Carter published Directive-Type Memo 16-005. DTM 16-005 stated “effective immediately, Now otherwise qualified Service member may not be involuntarily separated, discharged or denied reenlistment or continuation of service, solely on the basis of their gender identity.” and “Transgender Service members will be allowed to transition gender while serving in accordance with Department of Defense Instruction 1300.28.” This was not the full memo, but those two statements had the greatest impact on the transgender and genderqueer community, who had been banned from the U.S. military since the 1960s. Of course this did not end discrimination against transgender people, but this was a significant step towards equality.
However, the lift on the ban was short lived. In July 2017, President Donald Trump announced over Twitter, “after consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. 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. Thank you.” While Trump said he conferred with his Generals, former Secretary of defense Mattis was only told about the ban one day before the announcement. It appeared that Mattis resisted that ban, and he released a statement saying that transgender military personnel did not have to worry about being unfairly discharged for their gender identity.
The ban fell silent for a while, then rescinded. But on Mar. 28, 2018, the Trump administration introduced a new memorandum, which said that Secretary Mattis stated “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria—individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery—are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstance”
The DSM-5 says that gender dysphoria is a conflict between a person’s assigned gender and the gender with which they identify. People who are diagnosed with it usually have extreme amounts of stress, discomfort and dysphoria with their assigned gender. However, not every transgender person experiences gender dysphoria. Out of the 8,980 transgender troops serving in 2016, there were about 956 diagnoses of gender dysphoria.
The new ban was challenged in court four different times. Each of these four cases had a similar argument: that the new ban was just a re-worded rehash of the original 2017 memorandum. The cases were appealed until one of them reached the U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 22, 2019. The justices did not debate the legality of the ban; instead, they debated whether it could potentially go into effect. The court ruled that the ban is constitutional and could take effect. With the way that the Supreme Court functions, there may be no way to override that precedent for at least another 20 to 30 years. However, the three other cases are still in the lower courts, so there may be a chance that the ban is overturned.