So, this might be a mistake, but I am going to wade into the swamp of this transgender ban that President Donald Trump has re-instated on the military as of July 26, 2017. After all, I can’t let BK hog all of the spotlight on this one.
In explanation, the President announced via Twitter today that “the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military.”
The President went on to tweet that the military must be focused on “decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgenders in the military would entail.” Let’s break it down, shall we.
According to the Department of Defense’s “Fact Sheet” on the implementation of the Obama administration’s 2016 policy to allow transgenders to serve in the military — applicable prior to President Trump’s announcement — the Defense Department’s finding that “open service by transgender Service members, while being subject to the same standards and procedures as other members with regard to their medical fitness for duty, physical fitness, uniform and grooming, deployability, and retention, is consistent with military readiness.”
In addition, “the Military Health System will be required to provide transgender Service members with all medically necessary care related to gender transition, based on the guidance that is issued.”
Finally, the “initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition, and to have been stable in their preferred gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military.” That standard would then be reviewed “no later than 24 months from July 1, 2016 to ensure it reflects what more we learn as this is implemented, as well as the most updated medical information.”
Herein there are two important points to look at, as far as I can tell. First, allowing transgenders to serve should not, and will not, according to the DOD under President Obama, effect military readiness. I agree with that assessment, though many call it a political one that was forced on military leaders by President Obama’s DOD.
Regardless, military readiness should rightly be the starting point when we look at this issue, and we can argue over whether allowing transgenders to serve effects that, or if that is even a knowable fact right now. We can also argue whether or not President Obama’s DOD made the correct assessment in that regard.
The second important point here is the medical transition issue. Here is where this particular veteran is torn. I am all for allowing those willing and able to serve to do so, assuming that they meet all the standards. We should not prevent willing and able bodies from joining our military if they can get the job done. We are in a time of war, with no draft, and no large lines of people attempting to enlist and fight the nation’s wars.
The more the merrier, is my outlook on it. If you can fire a rifle, or drive a tank or armored personnel carrier, or fly an airplane or helicopter, and you have passed all the pertinent standards, then you should be able to do it. In fact, we need you to do it.
But, should the military be responsible for transitioning you from one gender to another, with all of the cost and degradation of readiness that the process entails? No, I don’t think that it should. This is simply asking too much of an organization with the overarching goal of fielding the world’s preeminent military power. Therein lies the point on which I am torn.
And I know that a RAND Corporation study calls the costs associated with this kind of treatment “small.” The study estimated that healthcare costs would rise $2.4 million to $8.4 million a year if such medical treatments were provided, representing a very small percentage increase in spending on active-duty service members. I get that. Still, it will put a strain on units who will lose personnel for however long it takes to have the surgery and recover, and it will cost millions.
From my vantage point — and again, it is only one veteran’s opinion — if you are transgender and want to implement a physical change on your own body via surgery, then you should make that decision before you decide to join the U.S. military, and pay for it yourself. The U.S. military should not foot the bill, nor should you be granted the down time to go through the procedure while on active duty.
So, there you have it. I would favor a middle way, in which transgenders were allowed to serve openly, as long as they meet all the standards, but would not receive the medical treatment required to transition from one gender to another from the U.S. military, while they served.
I get that there are strong opinions on both sides of this issue, but it seems like we can find a solution that is fair, conducive to military readiness, and amenable to most people if we really try.
(Featured image courtesy of Wikipedia.)