I’m willing to entertain the idea that transgender people, as a group, face more challenges than cisgender people when it comes to being equipped to serve in the U.S. military. Physically, although I’m pretty ignorant of what the transition process really entails, I’d imagine that there would be some challenges that could adversely affect a person’s ability to effectively serve in the field. Psychologically, I could also imagine how transitioning could be an extremely taxing and difficult process, especially considering the unsupportive-to-hateful attitudes that trans people often encounter in their day-to-day lives.
If a transgender person were deemed unfit for military service due to concerns about their physical and psychological ability, I would have no problem with denying that person the opportunity to serve. The problem with Donald Trump’s policy, however, is that not all transgender people possess cause for such concerns.
Donald Trump’s policy is a blanket statement. It assumes that all transgender people are unfit to serve in the military because of the sole fact that they are a member of that group. The evidence tells a different story.
Estimates vary, but most agree that there are currently thousands of transgender troops serving in the U.S. military both in active duty and the reserves. Of this group, there is no shortage of examples to demonstrate the capacity of transgender people to effectively protect and serve their country. Perhaps the most notable in the aftermath of yesterday is the service of Kristin Beck, a former member of the elite Navy Seal Team 6 who publicly challenged Donald Trump to “tell me to my face why I’m not worthy.” And while it may be tough to find a lot of people, trans or cisgender, as decorated as Beck, there are plenty of other stories of transgender soldiers who have performed their duty adequately and honorably (i.e. Minnesota natives Capt. Tarrence Robertson and Air Force Maj. Bryan Bree Fram.)
Trump’s policy is hateful and discriminatory, but it is also insulting to the intelligence of the American public. The series of tweets released yesterday by the president are only the latest blatant attempt to distract the public from the constant shitstorm that is his presidency. It’s the equivalent of waving something shiny in front of us with his right hand in hopes that we won’t pay attention to what he’s doing with his left. One day of debating the merits of Trump’s transgender tweets is one day that we are not talking about the Russia investigation. It’s also an ill-concealed attempt to win back a lot of the conservative base that he had begun to alienate after his attacks on Attorney General and conservative stalwart Jeff Sessions—the story that had been dominating the news cycle before Trump woke up Wednesday and again turned his Twitter account into a Molotov cocktail.
Trump’s strategy seems to be working. The country has spent the last two days debating an issue that is not even regarded as official policy by the Pentagon, nor by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain. Nevertheless, it’s probably a debate that we should be having, because no matter what the policy was or is in regards to this specific issue, it is clear that we as a country (myself included) have a long way to go in accepting and understanding transgender people.
It’s okay to question policy in regards to transgender people serving in the military. I think it is fair to debate when and if taxpayer dollars should go towards the healthcare costs of transitioning, and how a culture of political correctness could adversely affect the functioning of our military. What I do not think is fair, however, is turning the T in LGBT into an automatically disqualifying factor when it comes to military service in the United States. There are too many examples of transgender people who have served successfully and honorably to lend this proposed policy any credibility.
To an extent, the U.S. military can and should discriminate. People who are not fit to serve for various physical and psychological reasons should not be permitted to do so. Some transgender people may fall in to this category, but many do not. That’s why if we Americans are serious about the ideals that our country is founded on, when a transgender person arrives at the recruitment office with the ability to serve, we will give them the opportunity.