I’m pretty sure that President Trump knew that his proposed ban on transgender individuals serving in the military was going to set the media’s hair on fire from the moment he first tweeted about it. (Heck, that might have been one of the deciding factors in doing it for all we know.) But while at least some of the detailed plans for how such a ban would be enacted have been submitted by the White House, the task of implementing it falls on the shoulders of Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis. And at least for the time being, these plans are on hold while he studies the matter further. (USA Today)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis late Tuesday announced that transgender troops will be allowed to continue serving in the military pending the results of a study by experts.

The announcement follows an order from President Trump — first announced in a tweet — declaring that transgender service members can no longer serve in the military, effectively reversing an Obama administration policy. The order also affects the Department of Homeland Security, which houses the Coast Guard.

“Once the panel reports its recommendations and following my consultation with the secretary of Homeland Security, I will provide my advice to the president concerning implementation of his policy direction,” Mattis said in the statement. “In the interim, current policy with respect to currently serving members will remain in place.”

While some seem to be taking this as an indication of wavering on the policy, the final decision has already been made. Mattis appears to be approaching this from a very sensible position, but in the end it’s not up to him to override the decision of the Commander-in-Chief. From the beginning of this debate, Mattis has remained focused on one question alone… how would any change in policy impact the readiness of the United States military and their ability to effectively win wars. Social justice concerns and identity politics don’t appear to play a very large role in Mad Dog’s world. (Which is precisely as it should be.)

Regular readers will recall that I recently took at fresh look at the idea of a transgender troop ban and concluded that we could actually do without it if certain considerations were taken into account. With that in mind, I have to wonder precisely what questions are being asked and answered in the current study being undertaken by a panel of military experts.

Obviously the question of impact on force readiness must still be on the table, but more as an exercise in building background information since the decision has already been made. But are they going any further? Whether such individuals are allowed to serve or not, having the military develop a policy centered specifically on this classification could be seen as one more step in normalizing something which thus far appears to be hogwash from any rational scientific perspective. After all, sincerely believing that you are a penguin does not somehow allow you to go live without shelter in Antarctica.

Perhaps Mattis could come back with a recommendation for a compromise path when the study is concluded. The military could dismiss this entire flap by clarifying that they don’t recognize “transgender” as a demographic and will not do so until someone can provide some concrete medical data defining what it actually means. (As in, when a doctor can provide some sort of test which could determine the “gender” of an unconscious, John or Jane Doe patient and show that it’s somehow different from the results of a DNA test.) With that approach, a ban isn’t really needed and a divisive policy battle could be avoided.