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Commentary: The military can be 'inclusive' without paying for gender reassignment surgery

Transgender former US Navy Seal Senior Chief Kristin Beck speaks during a conference entitled 'Perspectives on Transgender Military Service from Around the Globe' organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Palm Center in Washington on October 20, 2014. President Donald Trump recently announced on Twitter that the Obama-era reversal on transgenders serving openly in the military would not go into effect, prompting a media firestorm. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump this week tweeted that transgender Americans would not be permitted to serve openly in the U.S. military, much less receive taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery, thus sparking a media firestorm among cable pundits and partisan politicians.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, Trump wrote that "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."

What followed was a media frenzy, full of accusations of bigotry, transphobia and all-out hatred.

Set aside for a moment the fact that a ban on transgender individuals serving openly existed for much of Barack Obama's presidency. Before Obama announced the reversal of the centuries-long policy in the closing months of his tenure, the media barely even raised the ban as an issue, much less leveled such degrading accusations.

At the time, it was reported that the move would take a year to fully implement, meaning the ban would not be lifted until July 1, 2017.

However, Trump announced earlier this year that his administration would delay the reversal to allow for further study of the contentious issue. The delay came as many slammed the Obama administration for using the military for their own social experimentation purposes.

Just weeks after the administration made the announcement to delay, however, Trump took to Twitter to make a much more sweeping proclamation.

The reason Trump gave for the decision not to accept transgenders into the armed forces was that "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 president's decision was in line with how much of the country feels about transgender rights, especially when it comes to them serving.

According to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey, taken before Wednesday's announcement, 23 percent of likely voters said that transgenders serving openly is a good thing, while 31 percent of likely voters called it a bad thing. Thirty-eight percent of likely voters said that transgenders serving openly in the military has no impact.

While the exact numbers may vary, I have yet to see any other recent polling that supports the opposite position. In a country where majority rules, it seems reasonable to accept the latter figure — in this case, the 38 percent who believe that transgenders serving has no impact on how the military performs.

Indeed, denying any individual who otherwise meets all physical criteria to enlist in the military the privilege of serving their country, is counterproductive to what makes America great.

If you're thinking right now, "Man, this guy sounds like a real liberal," just hold on.

Liberals have advocated for the taxpayer-funded military to pay for transgender soldiers' gender reassignment surgery. Meanwhile, many conservatives have made the point that it is not incumbent on the West Virginia coal miner, or the Michigan factory worker, or the Illinois farmer to pay for a procedure that transgender individuals who are not in the military rightly pay for on their own. I agree with conservatives.

At the end of the day, serving in the military is one's job. While their sacrifice is obviously much greater than that of millions of other Americans in the private sector, service members look at what they do as a job — a job with benefits, such as health care, housing stipends etc.

Given this fact, why is it seemingly more infuriating to liberals that hardworking Americans not pay for such an expensive procedure when there are numerous private health insurers that also do not provide these benefits?

The private sector paved the way in the push for more rights for LGBT Americans in recent decades. This corporate evolution, arguably, led to more acceptance of transgender people, which, in turn, led President Obama to announce the end of the transgender military ban.

Why can't the same be true for gender reassignment surgery? Why not let the private sector lead the way, just as it has done in other areas?

The fact that military service members are not entitled to receive taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgery, just as millions of other Americans outside of the military are not entitled to receive, is not, bigoted or transphobic.

If liberals truly want equality and inclusiveness for transgender service members, don't give them special accommodations. Treat them like transgender people out in the private sector.

And, if you don't like how the private sector treats transgender workers when it comes to health insurance coverage, you can rest assured that if enough Americans support health insurance companies offering gender reassignment surgery, companies, at some point, will follow in providing those benefits.

One last thing…
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