Transgender Soldiers Should Be Treated Just Like Everyone Else

Transgender Soldiers Should Be Treated Just Like Everyone Else


Last month, President Trump made a controversial tweet, stating that “the United States Government will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military”. In just three tweets posted last month, he explained that he consulted with military generals, and that transgenders caused disruption and high medical costs to the military. As expected, Trump’s tweets drew uproar.

Transgender SEAL Kristin Beck, born Christopher Beck, was one of the most visible veterans against the ban, asking Trump to defend the implication that transgenders weren’t good enough for the military. Only last week, this tweet became a standard, banning all new transgender individuals from joining and allowing Secretary Mattis discretion on currently serving transgenders. 

Many traditional conservatives think the ban was good. Conservatives tend to believe that transgender people are mentally ill, suffering from a condition historically called gender dysphoria. Just like background checks look for mental illness as a reason to withhold weapons from a citizen, conservatives believe that transgenders should not serve in the military.

Transgenders are dangerous in the military, regardless of physical capability or non-transgender related mental evaluation, because they simply believe something that is not true. Ben Shapiro, the Daily Wire editor-in-chief, explains in an article that accepting transgenderism is dangerous for all of society.

However, from a foreign policy perspective, or a military safety analysis, what certain factions of our country believe should not outweigh the relevant facts and conclusions of logical analysis. 

Historically speaking, transgenders have only just recently been considered as non-mentally ill. In June 2016, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made an announcement that transgenders would be allowed to openly serve in the military. This meant that if an active military member chose to transition, the military would pay for the hormone therapy and potentially gender reassignment surgery.

However, to join the military, one would have to be a single gender for 18 months or more prior to joining. This rule was groundbreaking for the LGBT community, which had seen Obama remove the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy only 5 years prior. On the other hand, longstanding policies sometimes are established for good reasons. 

To give a little background, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was established by President Bill Clinton in order to allow gay men and women to join the military. It was a compromise, and while many thought that it was giving too much on either side, it succeeded in establishing a precedent that military members didn’t ask each other about their private life.

You might have an inkling that your teammate was homosexual, but if he had your back, that was what was important. Today, that is still what is important in the military. Active military members should always work as a team, defending our nation from threats, and always be willing to save their teammate. This is what we call bravery, and valor, and no matter who you are, this is a prerequisite for military service.

The difficulty of judging the valor of candidates is that in most cases, you don’t know the person. You also don’t know the future, and how they will act in combat. The military has to read doctors’ reports on psychological and physical well-being, and determine whether the individual will be a brave, self-sacrificial soldier.

Any negative medical factors are an automatic “No” from the military. Diabetic? No. Tore a muscle? No. You need surgery for an ACL tear? No. You have an accidental cut on your wrist? No. In the first case, a diabetic needs daily medication. The second, he may not fully recover. The third, not useful for some time. The last, perhaps an indication of suicidal tendencies. The military makes decisions just like that because that’s the safest way. There’s no need to accept people if they may pose a danger. When you send a team out, you want to be confident that they will complete their task and return as a whole team. 

Transgenders need to be evaluated with the same scrutiny that everyone else undergoes. In the case of medications, hormone treatments are typically required before and after gender reassignment surgery. If an individual does not receive treatment, such as if a shipment does not arrive on time, they can suffer from hormonal imbalance.  An influx of testosterone or estrogen typically affects your moods, and is dumped into the bloodstream, easily reaching the brain within hours. Having anyone affected by hormones on a battlefield endangers the entire team. 

Furthermore, transgenders have an abnormally high rate of suicide in general, approximately 40% before surgery and 45% after. Like any population with high suicide rates, the military must  be diligent and cautious when evaluating the mental condition of transgender individuals. A scientific study found that 90% transgender service members had at least one diagnosed mental illness, if not more.

Sending transgenders into combat or allowing them to join the military may be dangerous for their teammates, but it is the most dangerous to them. It's time to let the military judge transgenders for their qualities, dangers, or potential, allowing society to learn that no one is entitled to serve in the military.

Follow this author on Twitter @UCDavisEngineer

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