Viral video: Veteran makes the case for Trump’s transgender military ban
Via the IJR, a clip from veteran John Burk that’s creeping up on five million Facebook views as I write this. He makes the same point as J.R. Salzman yesterday: War is stressful, and people with gender identity issues are under great stress as it is.
Is it empirically true that trans soldiers are more likely to crack than others? The core argument here is that the military routinely excludes people due to disability who want to serve; the point of the Pentagon review, I thought, was to look at how trans soldiers and the soldiers around them have fared and assess whether they’ve done so poorly as to warrant barring them categorically. Ultimately this is a debate over whether being transgender is a disability or not, at least as far as military service goes, and the review would have had insight into that. Instead Trump threw it out the window and declared a categorical ban that few in Congress, including the House Republicans who opposed using taxpayer money for soldiers’ sex-change surgery, were demanding.
On the other hand, this argument that the ban is unconstitutional because it’s obviously based on animus seems wrong to me. It’s for just the reasons Burk states that the ban isn’t necessarily grounded on animus. It’s plausibly a question of fitness:
As stated, a wall-to-wall ban on transgender Americans in the armed forces could only be understood as rooted in what constitutional doctrine calls animus: that is, the bare dislike of a group of people. And as the Supreme Court has held in cases going back at least to the 1970s, animus is never a constitutionally valid reason for government action…
The U.S. military employs people in a lot of capacities. It has doctors, lawyers, chaplains, cartographers, meteorologists, journalists, diplomatic attaches, cargo pilots, engineers and cooks. And it’s hard to think of any reason why transgender individuals should be banned from all of those roles. Indeed, it’s hard even to think of any reason why a government might want to ban transgender persons from all of those roles—except, of course, for simple dislike of transgender individuals.
I don’t think it’s incumbent upon the military to search for any conceivable role a recruit might fill if it deems him or her generally unfit for service. It’s not a jobs program; it’s not a self-fulfillment mechanism. It’s a fighting force for which readiness is paramount. Could DOD make a convincing case that including trans soldiers in the ranks damages readiness and puts their own mental health at risk? I’m skeptical, but like I say, I’d like to see the review. There are potential grounds here for the ban beyond “eww.”
Is the review still ongoing, by the way, or has it been canceled now that the president’s made his decision? Mattis’s feelings on the ban are unknown right now but his feelings about Trump’s M.O. in announcing it allegedly are not: “People close to the defense secretary said he was appalled that Mr. Trump chose to unveil his decision in tweets, in part because of the message they sent to transgender active-duty service members, including those deployed overseas, that they were suddenly no longer welcome.” If the review continues, Mattis is potentially in a sticky situation if it concludes that trans soldiers don’t hurt readiness and are perfectly capable of coping with the stresses with war. Where does that leave Trump’s basis for excluding them?