Rethinking the transgender military ban

Now that it’s closer to being official and most of the head explosions have settled down to quieter, seething rage, President Trump’s ban on transgender individuals (just take it as written that I put scare quotes around that) serving in the military continues to make the news. Apparently General Mattis is being given wide latitude as to what to do about those already in service. I’ve also had some time to reconsider my initial reaction and soak in various takes on the subject.

You may recall that when the initial announcement came out, I wasted little time in penning an article with the rather blunt title of, Yes, we needed a transgender military ban. If you missed it, feel free to read the entire thing but I can distill my reasons for that initial assessment down to four bullet points for you.

  • The cost (though minor) and inappropriateness of paying for medical procedures associated with “transition”
  • The inevitable hassles of limited bathroom, shower and locker facilities when dragging transgender individuals into the mix
  • The unspoken endorsement by the military of the idea that transgenderism is a scientifically supportable (or “real”) thing
  • The question of minimum standards and qualifications for duty (particularly combat roles) when you start gender bending

Having had more time to think about it, I have come to believe that we can actually get around all of those and and allow self-professed transgender individuals to openly serve in the military provided there is one admittedly big understanding established up front. Declaring yourself to be transgender would not bar you from enlisting or continuing to serve, provided you “express yourself” as the “gender of your choice” on your own time, off base, and not in uniform. (You would wear the uniform appropriate to your actual gender as defined by your DNA.) Also, it would be with the understanding that the military will not be funding related medical procedures unless a failure to do so would endanger the life of someone already in transition as Mattis indicated. Yes, yes… I can hear the screams of protest already, but if you truly wish to serve and not cause more problems than you’re trying to solve, it should be workable. And before you say it, this is not the same as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. In this case there’s no reason to ask (since answering in the positive wouldn’t disqualify you from service) and you can tell if you wish without penalty.

As to the previous issues I raised, this clears them up. There would be no issue with military funded medical procedures. All bathroom facilities, etc. would not be impacted as the service member would be using the correct facilities while in uniform and on military property. The military would not be endorsing any sort of unscientific social theory, but rather allowing the individual to believe what they like and dress as they wish on their own time. And the standards question disappears because everyone would just need to meet the minimum qualifications for their own gender as always.

Obviously that’s not going to please anyone who is fighting this battle primarily to score SJW points. But if you want to force your own beliefs about your gender on everyone else to the point where you insist on special treatment then the military really wasn’t for you in the first place. The military is an enterprise of conformity by definition. That’s why we wear uniforms, memorize rules, march in neat lines and all the rest. All the males wear the same uniforms and maintain the same haircuts and other grooming standards. Ditto for the females. It is not an environment for bold statements of personal expression.

There seems to be nothing inherently dangerous to the rest of society about gender dysphoria. And if you have a desire to serve, meet the minimum physical requirements and are willing to volunteer you should have the chance to do so. But that includes conforming to established standards and does not come with a license to “tell” the military what gender you are based on unscientific feelings. It seems to me that such a compromise should be workable, even though a fair number of individuals in this category would probably balk at these requirements and opt out. Others might not, however, and could still get the opportunity to serve their country.

David Strom 12:41 PM on September 26, 2022