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By Paul Meekin
“You don’t need to be ‘straight’ to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight.”
– Barry Goldwater
A Transgender Military Ban? Really?!
God. The T in LGBTQ is the trickiest letter in the whole post-modern world. When it comes to social issues, public policy, and accommodation, the rule book is being re-written daily as society moves past traditional gender roles into something a bit more… fluid.
Thanks to modern medical technology, that fluidity includes the freedom to change your sex via surgery, hormones, or both. With this freedom comes vitriol from the establishment and some understandable concern about how this affects our societal institutions; primarily places where we’re naked in front of each other.
There are many medical, mental, and interpersonal questions that need to be addressed not only by transgendered persons, but by society at large. Addressing these issues on a national stage requires nuance, patience, eloquence, and the understanding of a compassionate, studious leader.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military…Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” he tweeted.
Clearly, Trump and his military advisors thought there would be too much of a disruption. But why? What about trans-people could affect the readiness and lethality of the armed forces? What kinds of trans-people are banned?
If I don’t take hormones, still have my penis, but like to dress in women’s clothing and be called ma’am, am I not allowed in?
What about a buff woman who wears a compression bra, is 6’1″, has short hair, and wants to be called sir? Can she serve her country?
If the two examples above aren’t allowed in, President Donald Trump can f**k right off.
What Trump is getting at – I think – is trans-people who have undergone, or want to undergo, a physical transition; meaning they’ve started taking hormones, undergone gender re-assignment surgery, or want to. Meaning they’ve started modifying their body’s chemistry to fix their head chemistry.
And that concern, I think…at least warrants some exploration. According to the DSM-5, Gender Dysphoria is classified as a disorder of the mind. Meaning technically someone born male who wants to be female (or vice versa) has a fundamental issue with their brain – to the point where they may want to modify their sex organs or take hormone medication to make them more ‘like’ their desired sex.
Disorders that currently disqualify you from military service include ADHD, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, dyslexia, depression, suicide attempts, a history of drug dependency, and several more. Some of these are exempted on a case-by-case basis (for example if you stopped taking ADHD medication at 13).
According to a study of 300+ young trans-women in Chicago and Boston, those with Gender Dysphoria are up to three times as likely to suffer from depression or drug dependency then the ‘general’ population, with a 20 percent rate of suicidal thoughts.
But that doesn’t matter – you can’t ban a trans-person from the military just because trans-people are more likely to have mental issues; if they haven’t been diagnosed and don’t show symptoms, it shouldn’t be a problem.
BUT there’s major physical considerations. By definition, transitioning to female via hormones and surgery drastically alters your body chemistry. It’ll be harder to build muscle on the testosterone blockers often given in conjunction with estrogen for trans-women.
Same with a surgical transition: losing your primary testosterone producer – your testicles – would have similar affects on muscle mass and affect bone density – in addition to transitioning women being required to monitor and dilate her neo-vagina to make sure it stays open and functional – though that may qualify for leave.
On top of that, if a post-op trans-woman stops her hormones, it’s possible she’ll begin to experience the effects of something called ‘over-night’ menopause, Unless she starts taking testosterone, which may not be on hand.
Speaking of, the testosterone given to trans-men would, arguably, have a beneficial affect; increasing physical strength and the ability to build muscle mass; though a sudden stoppage of the testosterone has adverse side-effects as well.
I bring this up because war is hell. If you’re in a combat unit or on a mission and either lose your kit or are stranded without the medication you need to continue being ‘you’, numerous concerns arise of both a mental and physical nature. In the heat of battle or the terror of retreat, these concerns, however minor, could be a problem.
This is not to say transgendered people are more prone to panic or fear – I’d say it takes a major amount of bravery to be openly-trans, even if it shouldn’t – nor am I saying they couldn’t handle the sudden shock to their system that a sudden stoppage of hormones would create.
Rather it’s just to say if your personal identity and mental health hinges on the medication you take, that is a legitimate cause for concern – and a reason why the military is very stringent on anyone who takes daily medication.
The whole point of the military is to break you of your identity and build you up as a soldier. To quote a smart guy I know, “You don’t join the military to be you. You join the military to become a team and to break who you were.”‘
That said NONE of the above warrants a blanket ban on trans-people in the military. 85 percent of soldiers in the military are non-combatants. They’re your pilots, your mechanics, your telecommunication technicians, and so on. If there’s a job in civilian life, you bet your ass there’s a version of it in the military. Heck, here’s a list.
And all of my concerns are based on ‘could’. I have no idea what’s actually happened and what, if any, problems trans-people have caused in the military. More than anything I’m just trying to figure out the thought process of those in power beyond the traditional ‘they’re all horrible transphobic assholes’ rhetoric.
It’s entirely possible they are horrible transphobes and that’s why we have this ban.
Trans-people make up such a small portion of the military and there has to be a way to allow them to serve while also respecting their identity and the physical particularities of it.
Speaking personally? I need more data. I think if you’ve never had hormones and never had surgery, you should be allowed to serve however you damn well please, regardless of whether you think you’re a guy or a gal.
If you have? I still think you should be allowed to serve your country – but based on my informal research I’d lean toward making combat-intensive positions or positions that will strand you for long periods of time away from medical facilities be relegated to people not on any kind of altering medication, regardless of gender – I’m unsure if that’s the case now.
Regardless, the way this entire thing was handled was bungled (seriously, Cost?!). There were no details on how a trans-person is defined or what happens to the trans-people currently in the military. Vintage Trump.
There are many things I don’t know about this subject, and I’d advise you look for what transgendered service people say about this in the coming weeks and months.
What I do know, and hope to start, is a serious conversation about this and the many challenges that come with being a trans-person in our society – the least of which is where you’re allowed to go the bathroom.
The worst way to start any conversation is via cannon fire. Thanks to our President, battle lines have been drawn and there will be no peace.