As you’ve probably seen or heard already today, President Trump made the decision to ban transgender people from joining the military. He made the announcement, as he almost always does, on his infamous Twitter account, and stated that he had come to the decision after talking to several U.S. generals. As to be expected from any decision the president makes, the online world went ablaze, with celebrities and entertainment figures all rushing to virtue signal the hardest over how much of an ally they were to trans people and being sure to iterate repeatedly that the act of being trans is strong and that they’re the toughest people around and other statements of that nature. Members of the armed forces took a variety of stances, and I’ve spent a lot of time sorting through what these people, who will be affected most by the decision, have had to say on the manner. This decision falls into an interesting realm for me, because it has to do with social behavior and engineering, which is incredibly subjective, opposed to something more concrete and fact based like choices on the economy or immigration.
The Few and the Brave
To be upfront, I have very bias opinions on this matter as almost every member of my family on both sides have served in the U.S. military, all serving different branches and career fields. This has meant that I grew up surrounded by military members, their families, and all of the personal thoughts and opinions of people who have suffered at the hands of government bureaucracy. I don’t mean to speak for any of these folks, but I thought it was only fair to preface my argument before I got further in.
That aside, I think it’s important to be honest about what being transgender means. The fact of the matter is that this behavioral condition is nebulous, and can in fact indicate different levels of intensity. Those who are trying to compare the banning of transgendered people from the military to the segregation of blacks or even “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” either don’t understand or aren’t being honest about what being transgender means. To be more clear, your race and ethnicity are non-behavioural biological factors that should be a non-issue in a military setting. An integrated squad provides literally zero threat to group cohesion, aside from pre-existing racial bias from any side, which can be easily solved and eliminated with military training. When you join the military, you no longer exist as a private entity, whose thoughts and opinions matter and deserve to be shared with the world. You become a tool for the government to use in a time of war, and when you sign up you shed the pre-existing factors of your life to then become a stable and reliable member of the military. This makes race, ethnicity, and religion a non-factor, as when you go through bootcamp and grab a rifle, your “identity” shouldn’t matter, as your new identity is that of a U.S. soldier (marine, sailor, airmen, etc). Carrying over these pre-existing biases is harmful to the cohesion of a squad, and this is what some high ranking officers were fighting against when President Obama repealed “Don’t ask, Don’t tell”. I agree that the issue with the system was that plenty of the members of the armed forces used that slogan to make people of deviant sexualities seem “othered”, and if they were accepting of them it’d always seemingly be with a caveat. “You can be gay as long as he doesn’t hit on me.” “I heard about this one fella overseas who was hitting on other fellas in the shower.” “You should see my officer, he’s pretty alright for a gay fella.” I recognize this, and I recognize why more progressive minded people would then find “Don’t ask” to be discriminatory. My issue with the repeal was that following it was a social push to ensure that all people of all sexualities felt welcome and accommodated for their differences, which included all servicemen to undergo sensitivity courses on the matter. This doesn’t vibe with me, and is counter-productive to the seeming desires of the community. By forcing sensitivity courses and constantly promoting, “LGBT soldiers of the month” articles in papers, you aren’t integrating said people into the service at all, and instead promoting their shallow identity formed around their sexuality instead. Many members of the armed forces have dealt with this over the past years, and while I’m all about social progress, there has to be a serious discussion about the way social change should come about. Genuine debates based on facts and reason are preferable, not name calling and bandaid ripping. I’ve seen so many British online presences comment negatively towards Trump’s ban, and I like to remind those people that up until the year 2000, lgbt folk weren’t allowed to serve in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. To this day, there are still people squeamish about the matter, yet the media loves casting the first stones. I think it’s important to outline this before we delve deeper into the transgender issue, because quite frankly, the lgbt issue was never truly thought over fully, and instead enforced through law suddenly, leaving those still unsure left out in the cold.
Let’s Look at the Facts
Something I don’t hear anyone mentioning, and I think is a crucial factor, is that President Obama’s lifting of the pre-existing transgender ban, only allowed trans people who had been identifying in their current/desired gender for at least 18 months. This is such an important signifier to me, as it establishes a very obvious, yet somehow ignored fact. In the most progressive and accepting stance, being transgender means that you have a behavioral disorder. Homosexuality and matters of that sort are merely deviance from societal norms and expectations, being transgender meanwhile, stems from an underlying issue of dysmorphia. Dysmorphia, for those unaware, is defined as “deformity or abnormality in the shape or size of a specified part of the body”. Those who identify as transgender suffer from full body sex dysmorphia, meaning that they don’t feel as if their psychological/inner sex identity matches with their birth-assigned sex. This issue is very real, and it’s destructive for people of less progressive minds to write them off as being “insane”. The fact of the matter is that ~1.5 million people in the U.S. who identify as transgender. That’s a sizeable enough number of people all suffering from the same affliction to take it seriously. The point where I differ from social progressives then, is in the sympathy and pandering they give towards this group of people. Look no further than Canada and its gender pronoun laws, which make it a jailable offense to not use the correct pronouns when addressing somebody, whether you had prior knowledge of their preferred identification or not. Absolute insanity.
What makes that 18 month figure I brought up earlier very important then, is that it clearly indicates that until somebody who suffers from body dysmorphia has settled on their mentally sound sex/gender, they are not mentally sound enough to be a combat-ready soldier. Anybody who acts as if being transgender isn’t an impairing condition needs to look no further than the extraordinarily high suicide rates (46% average, 54% for teens, interestingly only 21% for those who cross-dress) and the rates soar even higher for those commit to transitional surgery. That fact makes Obama’s decision to force the VA to cover the cost of currently serving transgender members transitional surgeries, should they choose to undergo one, the more confusing. In taking new members in the first place, the procedure seems logical, but in treating currently serving members, it seems the opposite. People cite that transgender people would require the transitional surgery to improve their mental state, implying that they are impaired due to their condition beforehand. Also, the VA refuses to cover fertility procedures for servicemen and spouses who might have infertility problems. I would claim that allowing them to have children would improve their mental health, but it seems that the logic is not universal, and instead pandering. In terms of cost, the military and media are doing a solid job of hiding actual figures. I did however find a New York Times article from 2016 that stated there were 2,450 active duty members who identified as trans, and that only 65 were projected to pursue procedure. The projected costs from the Pentagon were $2.9 million to $4.2 million a year, which adds up to $44,615-64,615 per procedure. I find that expensive, especially considering that now that joining the military was a viable option for a transgender person to pursue a transitional operation, whose to say that number didn’t exponentially increase?
I feel it’s incorrect to treat the dysmorphia induced transgender community the same as the lgbt or racial minority groups have been. Instead, it’s logically (and scientifically) more accurate to compare them to those who suffer from anorexia, another mental/behavioral disorder that causes the body to be altered due to the brain’s impaired self-image. I’ve never understood why the transgender debate has been lumped into the sexual equality fight. At the end of the day, if someone who ails from dysmorphia can find a mental balance and thus meet the requirements to serve in the U.S. armed forces, why can’t they serve, just like if someone suffering from anorexia gets over their ailment and manages to acquire a healthy diet and healthy weight? If it’s obvious that somebody is trying to identify to the world as a male, there’s no justifiable reason to be rude and call them out for it, they recognize their level of passability. Just like you wouldn’t prod someone on their race, sexuality, or underlying conditions, if they have passed inspections and made it through bootcamp, then they deserve to serve with you, no questions asked.
I think what President Trump attempted at today, and instead failed is in trying to take the social politics out of every aspect of American life that the Obama era injected. Where Obama’s response to lack of diversity in universities and workplaces was mandatory affirmative action and public shaming of those who didn’t comply, the correct response would be to get rid of affirmative action and instead have a purely merit based system. The response isn’t to ban all minorities from universities and workplaces. So when Obama implemented the allowal of transgender people to serve, and forced the VA to pay for their transitional surgeries should they request them, the correct response would be to take away the surgery enforcement and maintain the truly equal recruitment procedures. When women called for equality on the battlefield, asking that they can serve on the front lines of war, they finally got the “privilege” but only if they could pass the same physical and mental requirements that have already existed for men. Guess what? Very few of the women who apply for combat roles get in because they don’t meet physical requirements. Those who do are then allowed to serve, no questions asked, as long as they accept the enhanced risk they pose when fighting in the current urban environments required of U.S. troops, as well as the pain that can be inflicted on a female prisoner of war that a male would never receive. When it comes to the cream of the crop of military service, only one female has met requirements to undergo Navy SEAL training, and it’s yet to be seen if she makes it through. The point is that we should all be for equality in the military, but no equity. All people should receive an equal footing and no amount of social posturing should grant somebody an easier time or higher position. The military is the military, it exists to protect and serve the U.S. abroad, and I feel that people forget that we’ve been in active conflict in the Middle East for the past couple decades. A weak, yet “integrated” fighting force is not what we should want or need. If somebody meets standards however, then there should be no discriminatory prohibitions from their serving (although it’s important to remind people that there is no “right to serve”).
At the end of the day, it’s no surprise that Trump angered the entire internet and lgbt community with his decision, but honestly this would happen no matter what. I don’t see much of a difference in anger today versus what we saw reaction-wise yesterday towards Obamacare repeal. The media will blow any Trump decision out of proportion, it’s just for once I feel there is a justification against Trump’s actions. In defense of Trump’s stance, it’s genuinely not fair or equal to force the military to pay for transgender reassignment surgeries (I’ve actually yet to find a logical argument defending this) nor should somebody who has been deemed mentally unhealthy be allowed to serve. People’s cries against Trump are unfounded, he’s still to this day the most lgbt friendly president (The dude normalized gay marriage at the RNC and got thunderous applause for it) and his decision to ban transgender people is a logistical misstep instead of an act of bigotry or prejudice. The biggest mistake I believe Trump made was making this decision himself, especially over Twitter. While I always applaud Trump for being direct to the American people, using our own tools of communication to speak, instead of utilizing corporate owned outlets, I don’t think a series of 140 character tweets was the right way to deliver this news. Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis was on Summer break, and thus unable to deliver this message, but I feel it would make more sense to have waited and allowed him to break the announcement, instead of using the same platform that Trump uses to harass Rosie O’Donnell and dissenting GOP members on. If you lie too heavily on either side of this issue, don’t worry. There will inevitably be another story tomorrow that will leave people even more outraged than today. Be careful how you talk about this issue if you aren’t informed, emotions are temporary, published remarks remain forever.