US military soldiers march during the Veterans Day Parade in New York on November 11, 2014. Veterans day is celebrated across the country to honor those who...
JEWEL SAMAD

Trump tries and fails to justify ban on transgender troops

The Rachel Maddow Show, 4/12/19, 9:47 PM ET

Trump implements 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell for transgender troops'

Aaron Belkin, founding director of the Palm Center, talks with Rachel Maddow about the parallels of Donald Trump’s new military transgender ban with the failed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and the damage it does to actively service transgender military
Aaron Belkin, founding director of the Palm Center, talks with Rachel Maddow about the parallels of Donald Trump’s new military transgender ban with the failed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and the damage it does to actively service transgender military
It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump announced via Twitter than he would no longer allow transgender Americans to serve in the military. He hadn’t given anyone at the Pentagon a heads-up about his new discriminatory policy – officials throughout the executive branch were blindsided – and no one at the White House could explain the necessity of the change.

As regular readers may recall, Trump eventually defended the move by saying, “I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it.” It’s still unclear what that was supposed to mean.

Naturally, there was extensive litigation challenging the policy, and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually allowed the White House to move forward with its ban in a 5-4 ruling.

In a new interview with Piers Morgan, Trump offered a defense for his policy.

“Because they take massive amounts of drugs, they have to – and also, and you’re not allowed to take drugs. You’re 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. And you would actually have to break rules and regulations in order to have that.”

When reminded that the cost of the medications is miniscule, and that the Pentagon already spends far more to provide servicemen with Viagra, the president eventually tried to defend his policy by saying, “Well, it is what it is.”

How profound.

There are a couple of dramatic flaws in Trump’s underwhelming defense, starting with the fact that he’s contradicting his own team’s talking points. The administration’s argument up until now has been that the ban on transgender Americans serving in the military is needed to protect unit cohesion and morale among the other troops. Now the argument apparently has something to do with medications.

Which leads us to the other problem: Trump’s wrong about this, too.

The Washington Post spoke to a series of experts who concluded that the president doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about.

“This statement is incorrect,” said Jane Schacter, an expert on gender and sexuality law at Stanford University. “Many members of the military use prescription medication, and it is made available to them worldwide. Hormone therapy, in particular, is prescribed, including to manage the gynecological needs of non-transgender service members.”

Joshua Safer, the head of the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Mount Sinai Health System, agreed. “The hormones taken by transgender individuals are not prohibited by the military,” he said. “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.” […]

It’s also important to note that not all transgender people undergo gender reassignment surgery or take prescription hormones, so even if such prescribed drugs were prohibited, it wouldn’t necessarily mean transgender troops would have to be banned from serving. Trump’s comments seem to suggest that these drugs would be required for all transgender troops; they’re not.

Trump has had 23 months to come up with an argument to defend his discriminatory policy. If he still can’t think of one after all this time, perhaps he should end the ban?