What Would a Fair Transgender Policy in the Military Look Like?

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 July 30, 2017|
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President Trump’s announcement via Twitter last week that he would discontinue administrative directives ordering the armed forces to accommodate transgender men and women in the military has met with an all-too-predictable response. Democrats are apoplectic, engaging in a mix of virtue signaling and flag waving. Thus my congressman, U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), a co-chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus, huffed: “The President’s action today is despicable . . . There are thousands of transgender people serving in the Armed Forces. They are heroes. They deserve our thanks.”

Many Republicans objected as well. U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a prepared statement, “there is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity.”

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Joseph Dunford, announced the current policy would remain in place for now. “In the meantime,” Dunford said, “we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect . . . As importantly, given the current fight and the challenges we face, we will all remain focused on accomplishing our assigned missions.”

As usual, the press reported Dunford’s response as show of resistance to the policy change and as military “pushback” to the president, something liberals approve only when it is directed against a Republican. And it is doubtful that his memo indicates the military’s disagreement with changing the policy. A recent poll found only 12 percent of military personnel viewed allowing transgenders to serve in the military as “helpful,” while 41 percent found it “hurtful.” If anything, the memo was only a reminder that since a presidential tweet does not constitute policy; the current approach will remain in place until such time as the president orders the secretary of defense to formally revoke the Obama policy; and the secretary of defense issues guidance on how to implement the new rules..

What can we say about the plan to revoke Obama-era transgender policy? For one thing, it violates no one’s “rights.” Transgender people continue to possess all of the rights of their fellow citizens, but there is no “right” to serve in the military. The military rejects many people based on physical and psychological conditions.

Second, we are not talking about changing a longstanding policy. Opening service to transgenders was an executive decision made during the last year of the Obama administration; it was scheduled to go into effect in June. The Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps had originally requested a two-year delay to assess the costs and possible consequences of the new rules, but finally agreed to seek a six-month delay, a request approved by Secretary James Mattis. Meanwhile, Congress failed to hold hearings on the subject. A change in the policy would be nothing but a return to the status quo ante.

Third, liberal activists insist on treating transgender military service as the latest milestone on the road to complete social justice, one that stretches from the integration of African-Americans into the military, to women in combat and service by open homosexuals to the present. But it is no such thing. Rather it is—or should be—an issue of military effectiveness. Does the Obama policy of transgenders in the military increase the lethality of the force or not?

The fact is that there are perfectly good reasons to ban service by transgenders. People who identify as transgender suffer a host of mental health and social problems—including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse—at higher rates than the general population. For instance, a 2015 National Center for Transgender Equality survey found 53 percent of transgender respondents aged 18 to 25 reported

experiencing current serious psychological distress [compared to 10 percent of the general population] . . . Forty percent (40%) of respondents have attempted suicide at some point in their life, compared to 4.6% in the U.S. population. Forty-eight percent (48%) of respondents have seriously thought about killing themselves in the past year, compared to 4% of the U.S. population, and 82% have had serious thoughts about killing themselves at some point in their life . . . 29% of respondents reported illicit drug use, marijuana consumption, and/or nonmedical prescription drug use in the past month, nearly three times the rate in the U.S. population (10%). . . . 

Meanwhile, transgender veterans are found to have the highest rates of mental health problems in the United States. A 2016 study found 90 percent of military members who identify as transgender were diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder, and almost 50 percent were hospitalized after attempting or considering suicide.

Advocates of transgender military service claim that medical costs associated with transgenderism are minimal. For instance, Axios says that the total costs of hormone treatments and “reassignment surgery” would range from $2.4 million to $8.4 million, which is “0.005% to 0.017% of all Department of Defense health care spending.” But this ignores some important points: the 10-year cost of military transgender medical care is $3-4 billion; since this means that resources are diverted from other medical causes for military personnel and veterans, it represents a very real opportunity cost to the Military Health Service. At the same time, expensive life-long hormone treatments and irreversible surgeries associated with gender dysphoria would negatively affect personal deployability and mission readiness. Why would we saddle a military with problems that can only exacerbate administrative burdens in times of stress?

Here is a proposal. A recent Rand study suggests that there are between 1,320 and about 6,000 transgender people serving in the U.S. military. But even assuming these numbers are correct, what do they mean? Do they mean those who have made the transition or those who are in transition? Clearly it is the latter group that creates the problems–administrative and financial. A possible solution: Any person who enters the military has to leave it with the same “gender” as when he/she joined. No transition. No surgery. No hormone treatment. While a biological male is in the service, he may claim to identify as “transgender” (that he is, say, a woman in a man’s body) but while he is in the service he must shower and share the head/latrine, etc. with those who share his biological sex. Even Christian (Kristin) Beck, the former Navy SEAL who has been trotted out to defend the idea of service by transgenders, did not make the transition until after he left the service. Let’s return to that approach.

About the Author:

Mackubin Owens
Mackubin Thomas Owens is dean of academics for the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC, a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) in Philadelphia, and editor of Orbis, FPRI’s quarterly journal. He recently retired after 29 years as Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. From 1990 to 1997, Dr. Owens was also Editor-in-Chief of the quarterly defense journal Strategic Review and Adjunct Professor of International Relations at Boston University. Owens is the author of Abraham Lincoln: Leadership and Democratic Statesmanship in Wartime (2009) and US Civil-Military Relations after 9/11: Renegotiating the Civil-Military Bargain (January 2011) and coauthor of US Foreign and Defense Policy: The Rise of an Incidental Superpower (2015) and The Evolution of the Executive and Executive Power in the American Republic (2014). Before joining the faculty of the War College, Owens served as National Security Adviser to Senator Bob Kasten, Republican of Wisconsin, and Director of Legislative Affairs for the Nuclear Weapons Programs of the Department of Energy during the Reagan Administration. Dr. Owens is also a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam, where as an infantry platoon and company commander in 1968-1969, he was wounded twice and awarded the Silver Star medal. He retired as a Colonel in 1994. Owens earned his Ph.D. in Politics from the University of Dallas, a Master of Arts in Economics from Oklahoma University, and his BA from the University of California at Santa Barbara.
  • tz1

    except post-transition they need hormones to stay. Does the military pay?

    • 1Gandydancer

      Of course. Screw you, taxpayer.

  • hogdriver

    “According to RAND, there was “no significant effect” on overall readiness, unit cohesion, or operational effectiveness.”

    The real question is how does the transgender experiment enhance our military?

    The mission of our military is to kill & not be killed. The Rand study, transgender troops and their advocates haven’t shown that transgender troops improve the lethality & survivability of our military.

    • 1Gandydancer

      The only sentence with RAND in it is “A recent Rand study suggests that there are between 1,320 and about 6,000 transgender people serving in the U.S. military.” Where are you getting yours?

      According to Google, “Your search – “According to RAND, there was” “no significant effect” “on overall readiness, unit cohesion, or … – did not match any documents.” (not bothering to replace internal quote marks with ‘)

      • hogdriver

        http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/numbers-transgender-individuals-serving-us-military/story?id=48869563

        “How would transgender individuals affect military readiness?

        There would be “little to no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness, or readiness,” according to the study.”

        • 1Gandydancer

          From your abc link, “One defense official said the number of service members that have identified as transgender is in the low hundreds. The Associated Press previously reported that 80 Army soldiers, including those in the National Guard and Reserves, 160 Navy sailors and a handful of Marines identified as transgender, while the Air Force did not provide numbers. Another defense official confirmed that those previously reported numbers were accurate.”

          So, with such trivial numbers, of course the impact is currently low.

          The section I read, where the RAND crew omits to mention the per-tranny cost, was enough for me to decide that I was looking at political advocacy.

          The idea that it would be trivial going forward as a declared policy I simply reject. That soldier is a manly enterprise engaged in by manly med is critical to all recruitment advertising I’ve ever seen, at least prior to attempts to recruit women, and no “study” by politically motivated “researchers” is even worth looking at, IMHO. Andthere are all sorts of other obvious problems.

  • NYY32311

    Why would I, or the military, want to get involved in a disagreement between a person’s brain, genatalia, and chromosomes?

    You are electing to transform, which during said process automatically entails an, I believe, total loss of combat readiness – our opposition readily would pay for that, why would you want me to?

    Also, you don’t want the government telling you what to do with your body, unless to 1) approve of it and 2) pay for it; what am I missing there?

  • Cybergeezer

    We already have a Congress of men without chests.
    Do We really want a military of men without chests too?

  • JamesDrouin

    “What Would a Fair Transgender Policy in the Military Look Like?”

    Define “fair” and then let us know if it includes giving people with a 40% lifetime suicide attempt rate access to thermonuclear weapons.

    • Andrew Nelson

      Well then maybe clearing mine fields with hammers would be a good fit. Solves several problems at once.

      • JamesDrouin

        I don’t know … seems like a good waste of perfectly good hammers.

        • Stammon

          Yes, at $600 apiece those hammers would add up quickly.

      • Shane Norkus

        how about just clearing mine fields on all fours or being used as human shields? as you mentioned, it would solve several problems at once.

      • Gorgar Tilts

        Gorgar approves of this comment.

      • vladdy

        An “up” just because it made me laugh…(but not in a taking-away-civil-rights-from-the-oppressed way)

  • silencedogoodreturns

    Mac is a great American and makes a thoroughly common sensical and logical argument and proposal here.

  • sotto voce

    What about the issue of immutable differences in body composition between man and women? A woman who wishes to “identify” as a man will never be as physically strong as a man, no matter how much hormone therapy she undergoes. Add this lack of physical strength to the well-documented emotional issues associated with gender dysphoria and you have a potential for combat mission failures that also put fellow soldiers at risk, all in the name of social experimentation.

    The bottom line should be: Does allowing transgenders to serve in combat enhance the effectiveness and potential lethality of our forces? If the empirical answer is No, then the military needs to stand up to the SJWs … after all, our military effectiveness protects them as well.

  • Cybergeezer

    Yo!
    where’d my comment go?

    • Stammon

      Their camo would be precious.

  • JWM

    Serving does not make one a hero, an heroic action does. Mentally confused people will not make solid decisions and could make some real bad ones.

  • auContrair

    Let’s add this to any law, rule, regulation: “Should any transgender, while psychologically distressed, take any action – or fail to take any action – that results in injury or death of any other service member (to include civilian employees, contractors, et al), or causes any other physical, psychological, emotional injury to any other member, than that transgender will be personally liable for damages, and the injured service members) will be automatically and instantly deemed covered by fully-paid military health insurance for said injuries and any concomitant issues for the remainder of their lives. Members’ families will also be covered for loss of earning, services, etc., for the previous and next 2 generations.” Or words to that effect.
    “Progressives” want us to play the game? Then they must be willing to pony up the costs.

  • lhfry

    We have one celebrated case that defines the problem: Manning. He clearly suffered from mental illness and he had access to classified information that he then made public. IMO he did this to gain attention, read sympathy. His sentence for a clearly treasonous act was commuted and he retains his military benefits – pretty expensive ones too. What kind of example does that set and how many events of this type can the military tolerate and remain effective?

    • vladdy

      You might say “He ruined it for everybody” (except that’s not true — common sense and realizing the purpose and structure of the military should make it clear to most people.)

  • UncRemus

    A world without Mental Cases and Perverts would be Nice….

  • ADM64

    The rhetoric of both Democrats and RINOs, and the DOD’s spineless punt on this – including “Mad Dog” Mattis’ position suggests that people will place moral or (social) justice ahead of any practical policy. We have already seen this for decades with respect to the entitlements and most recently on the Obamacare repeal. And the military conceded the point decades ago with women (where there are massive problems to this day including lowered and separate standards, fraternization, sexual assault, pregnancy and lower performance), then having conceded the point on women, they lost on gays (fraternization and sexual assault). Meanwhile, the DOD claims we have the best ever military and that our “men and women” are serving honorably (which they’re not if they’re not meeting all of the same standards), even though we haven’t won any actual wars with the coed, post-DADT, diverse, inclusive “best ever” military. I’d suggest that the only “fair” policy in an unfair world is a military that gives us the best chance of defending our country, does not force our servicemen to confront otherwise wholly avoidable risks and costs, and does not multiply friction.

  • Ron Noyfb

    The left went first with the fags and now wants the freaks- how about neither in the military.

  • ConradCA

    People who deny the reality of their own body are by definition mentally ill. As such they are clearly unfit to serve in the military.

    • Stammon

      They can pretend to be anything they want, they just can’t force us to believe it.

  • William Westchester

    I can reduce Colonel Mac’s expert analysis of what the military would look like: FUBAR. And that is PRECISELY what the 0bamunists wanted to accomplish, and would have furthered, if the Wicked Witch of Westchester had been crowned, as planned.

  • Stammon

    Do any of you know a transgendered person? So far I know two. One who is dead 30 years ago of aids, the other a girl to boy transition who grew up with my children. The former was an exotic dancer, totally self absorbed, and not military material although a good person. The other, grew up playing on my farm, terribly unsure of herself, with an overprotective mother. Possibly military material, but would need a lot of growing up, which now can never happen. I’m sorry, but the US military has other goals instead of fixing the American Republic’s gender dysphoria.
    Remember; Democrats only do this stupid stuff because they are self righteous never stop do gooder busy bodies. Also, they used to make power off of it. Not anymore.

  • Shane Norkus

    because biology teaches us there is no such thing as ‘transgender’, just transvestites, there’s no need for another useless, unenforceable military policy.