What we’re missing in the transgender military debate

Last week President Trump tweeted that after consulting with several generals and advisors, transgender individuals will not be allowed to serve in the military. This spark a huge debate and got the usual sides going at it. Initially this both puzzled and concerned me. What about the individuals already serving? Did he mean active duty? How many trangenders want to join the military? I saw many of people ask those same questions, but I never saw any good answers. I just saw people arguing about things like mental illness and taxpayers funded transition surgeries. If we must have this debate then let’s do it fair and honestly. In this piece I will present the arguments I have seen and explain why I take issue with them and what we are all missing.

To begin, I’d like to remind everyone that the current population of trans people in the U.S. is 1.4 million people, or 0.6% of adults ages 18-24 according to a June 2016 study. We are dealing with a small minority relative to the overall population. As of 2017 there are 1,281,900 active personal in the army and 811,000 reserve personal. The current number of trans individuals currently serving is difficult to find, and there are a lot of inaccurate numbers. The closest I could find is 15,000 with some 8,800 in active duty. I mention all of this to remind you that we are talking about a minority group in the U.S., and in the context of the military the minority is even smaller. From the data above one could assume the chances of actually having to serve with a trans person is pretty slim.

Now that we have some context let’s begin examining some arguments. The first one I heard is the mental health argument. People say that the suffer from a disorder called “Gender Dysphoria”. To my knowledge this is a real condition, but it doesn’t seem like it would get in the way of one’s physical abilities or military duties. Since I believe we must define our terms, gender dysphoria is, “the condition of  feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite of their biological sex.” While it must be noted that this is certainly a deep struggle that these individuals go through, is this enough to keep trans people out of service? Furthermore, when discussing the mental illness argument one must define metal illness. Not many were willing to do so or even come up with one. It’s almost entirely subjective. With that in mind couldn’t it be possible that if the people assessing you for military service could find something wrong with your mental condition if they look hard enough?

Then there is the suicidal argument. This is no doubt true. Within the LGBTQ community there is a high rate of suicide. This absolutely should play a factor, but you have to look at why. The homosexual community has made tremendous progress within the last 20-30 years, but what about the trans community? They’ve almost been left in the dust. This is a group that isn’t receiving the same acceptance as gays. If you object to the word acceptance, they aren’t even seeing the same level of tolerance or indifference that gays are getting. Trans people are still being beaten and killed in this country. It doesn’t seem to occur to anybody that maybe if we stop bullying these people we might see a drop in suicide rates. Not to mention that there are suicidal people in the military that aren’t trans.

The final arguments I would like to mention is the, “I don’t want someone withdrawing from hormones with me down range” this is closely related to the, “I don’t want my tax dollars paying for transition surgeries and hormones.” The first argument is certainly something that should be considered. Although, if you look at the numbers above, you have a pretty small chance of being in that situation to begin with. Not only is there a small number of trans in the military, but there are other jobs besides active duty in the military. As for the second argument, I’m inclined to agree. I also don’t want my tax dollars paying for Viagra, or other medicines. I’m no expert, but when you join the army you sign away your life and some of your freedoms to become a killing machine. This means that you have to be in tip top shape. So should we also exclude diabetics from the army as well? Lastly, the left’s biggest argument, “It’s their right to serve in the Army!” Serving in the army is not a right as outlined in the constitution. It is neither a positive nor a negative right. It is a privilege extended to the population of the United States.

I feel like I have done a good enough job laying out some of the arguments above and the issues with them. Here’s my opinion, I feel it should be up to the military as to who they let in. This should be done on an individual case by case basis. There is no broad policy that will be effective here. Some libertarians have made the case that they don’t think anyone should serve in the army. I still believe in basic defense of our country, which is not to be confused with nation building and the war on terror. I like some of the founders do take issue with a standing army and prefer things like the national guard which has bases in every state and could function as a state militia. The framers feared a standing army because it was in fact how Caesar seized control of Rome, and they feared something similar would happen to the fragile,newly founded republic. The compromise to this fear was the “Army Clause” in the constitution which puts limits on what the army can do without congressional approval. As we have learned from George Bush’s presidency that is no longer the case. All this to say it isn’t up to the president who can and can’t serve in the army. Since we don’t live in my fantasy where we actually follow the constitution, we should allow any able bodied person above 18 to serve. Within the context of transgender people in the military, as long as they meet the physical and mental requirements and tests I see no issue. As of now the military did say that trans people can still serve. The President only tweeted, mind you, there is a process.

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