The big argument defending the trans military ban just got debunked ... by the military.

Among its latest reasons for attempting to ban transgender people from the military (again), the Trump administration points to potential disruptions to something called "unit cohesion" — basically, how well members of a troop work together.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis wrote that allowing trans people to serve in the military "could undermine readiness, disrupt unit cohesion, and impose an unreasonable burden on the  military that is not conducive to military effectiveness and lethality."

Using that memo, Trump announced that trans people would be "disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances." The entire process was clearly just a way to reverse-engineer a rationale for implementing his impulsive July 2017 tweets on the subject.


Yet while the ban remains tied up in courts, trans people continue to serve openly in the military — which means we can see how those claims hold up in the real world. Let's take a look at the three most important ones.

President Donald Trump addresses members of the Air Force in September 2017. Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.

1. Is that unit cohesion narrative legit?

Over the past several weeks, chiefs of staff for the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have all weighed in — offering a surprising, and pretty much unanimous, answer.

Testifying before the Senate on April 12, Gen. Mark Milley, the Army's chief of staff, was asked by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), "Are you aware of any problems with unit cohesion arising? ... Have you [heard] anything, how transgender service members are harming unit cohesion?"

"No, not at all. ... We have a finite number [of trans service members]," he replied. "We know who they are, and it is monitored very closely because, you know, I'm concerned about that and want to make sure that they are in fact treated with dignity and respect. And no, I have received precisely zero reports of issues of cohesion, discipline, morale, and all those sorts of things. No."

GIF via Political News/YouTube

Five days later, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), asked Vice Adm. Karl Schultz, the incoming Coat Guard commandant, the same question. He replied, "I am not aware of any disciplinary or unit cohesion issues resulting from the opening of the Coast Guard to transgender individuals."

On April 19, Gillibrand asked Adm. Jon Richardson, the Navy's chief naval officer, and Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine Corps commandant, whether they were aware of any issues resulting from open service.

"We treat every one of those sailors, regardless, with dignity and respect that is warranted by wearing the uniform of the United States Navy. By virtue of that approach, I am not aware of any issues," replied Richardson.

GIF from CSPAN.

"There's 27 Marines that have identified as transgender ... . I am not aware of any issues in those areas," said Neller.

Finally, on April 23, Gillibrand asked Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein, whether he was aware of any "issues of morale or discipline resulting from open transgender service." He responded, "The way you present the question, I have not."

GIF from CSPAN.

2. How about that popular argument put forward by Trump about transgender troops' "tremendous medical costs"?

"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," Trump tweeted on the morning of July 26, 2017. "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."

Of course, pretty much none of this is accurate. A study commissioned by the Defense Department found that the total added cost of allowing trans people to service and access health care would amount to somewhere between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually. To put that in perspective, the military spends as much as ten times that amount annually on erectile dysfunction medication. That same study found no basis in cost, cohesion, or medical status to prevent trans people from serving in the military.

People protest the trans military ban outside of the White House on July 26, 2017. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

3. Then there are those who say trans people simply aren't fit to serve, medically. Is that true?

In a letter on April 3 addressed to Mattis, American Medical Association CEO Dr. James Madara wrote, "There is no medically valid reason — including a diagnosis of gender dysphoria — to exclude transgender individuals from military service.  Transgender individuals have served, and continue to serve, our country with honor, and we believe they should be allowed to continue doing so."

On March 26, the American Psychological Association slammed the administration for its "misuse of psychological science to stigmatize transgender Americans and justify limiting their ability to serve in uniform and access medically necessary health care," adding, "Substantial psychological research shows that gender dysphoria is a treatable condition, and does not, by itself, limit the ability of individuals to function well and excel in their work, including in military service."

Dr. Joycelyn Elders testifies before the Senate during her confirmation hearings in July 1993. Photo by Kort Duce/AFP/Getty Images.

Former Surgeons General Joycelyn Elders (who served under Bill Clinton) and David Satcher (who served under Clinton and George W. Bush) came out with a joint statement on the issue, writing, "We are troubled that the Defense Department’s report on transgender military service has mischaracterized the robust body of peer-reviewed research on the effectiveness of transgender medical care as demonstrating 'considerable scientific uncertainty.' In fact, there is a global medical consensus that such care is reliable, safe, and effective."

Sure, that's what a bunch of experts say. But a small group of anti-LGBTQ activists and a famously anti-LGBTQ vice president have a few thoughts, too.

Though the White House has been extremely reluctant to divulge how they arrived at the decision to try and ban trans service members and who was involved in those conversations, Slate's Mark Joseph Stern landed on a bit of a scoop:

"According to multiple sources, Vice President Mike Pence played a leading role in the creation of this report, along with Ryan Anderson, an anti-trans activist, and Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBTQ lobbying group. Mattis actually supports open transgender service, but he was effectively overruled by Pence, and chose not to spend his limited political capital further defending trans troops. In a memo released on Friday, Mattis encouraged Trump to ban transgender people from enlisting in the military, and to discharge those service members who wish to transition. Trump has now formally adopted these suggestions."

Here's hoping that the courts, while ever increasing in their Trumpiness, stand on the side of expertise, science, and facts over anti-LGBTQ culture warriors. The arguments being made here, especially ones about unit cohesion, are the same ones used to keep people of color, women, and gays, lesbians, and bisexuals out of the military — this just just the latest hurdle.

The Trump administration has taken aim at trans people during these first 15 months in office. Whether it's banning trans people from the military, giving doctors the green light to refuse trans people medical treatment, reversing course on a policy intended to protect trans students, argued that trans people aren't covered by employment non-discrimination laws, and more. It's an obsession that goes beyond the military, which is why it's so important to fight back against bigotry, starting here.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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