Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently went on record as being in favor of allowing trans personnel to serve openly in the American armed forces and went on to say President Obama is also in favor. This is the most progressive move since his predecessor, Secretary Hagel, said he thought the idea of trans folk serving openly was worth looking into.
Now, I saw the news posted on a national media website and made a mistake. I looked at the comments.
Internet comment sections entice me, especially when trans folk are the subject. Many trans people have learned to avoid comment sections entirely as they can be quite triggering, and to be honest, they are. I get triggered into responding to idiots at the expense of sleep.
Comment sections really can be a great way to change people’s minds about certain issues. It is a way to converse with someone you do not know. Of course, there are people who are just there for the LOLs, there are people who are just trying to troll in an inflammatory way, and there are just plain idiots. The idiots are easily spotted by their spelling, grammar and/or overuse of caps lock. When it comes to trans issues, there are also a lot of Christians who feel the need to opine judgmentally. Comments from any of these types of people are easily glossed over, although, sometimes you can still sway their opinions.
The people to look for are the ones who make logical points but still disagree with you. They are worth their weight in gold. They may think about what you say . They may change their minds. Sometimes it is worth being out and communicating to strangers.
In the case of trans folk in the military, there are some decent arguments against… at least from the perspective of a fairly intelligent person who knows little about being trans or serving in the military.
I am noticing some interesting trends in the comment sections. People in these discussions frequently think ALL trans people have had or will have the surgery. They frequently think trans women will have to share bathrooms and showers with men, which ironically, is how things happen now. They also frequently think all trans people want to be women,
On a side note, there are an estimated 15,000 trans troops currently serving. They can serve, they just can not serve openly. If they come out, they are considered mentally unfit to serve because the military considers being trans a disqualifying mental disorder. Let me repeat, trans people already serve in the military. If being trans is a mental disorder, then the military still has it backwards, the dysphoria that can come with being trans is often cured by transition. Keeping trans people closeted is the worst way to keep them sane.
Let’s look at convicted leaker Chelsea Manning. I find it quite interesting that when she was known as Bradley, and she knew something others did not know, and it would cost her a job if she came out and said it, in spite of thinking that telling everybody was the right thing to do… the parallels are kinda’ uncanny. I can’t help but wonder if her secret trans life was the straw that broke her back. Admittedly, her example is troubling. The most famous trans person in the military is in prison.
The oddest thing? She is still enlisted. They can’t discharge her and still send her to military prison. She will be dismissed upon release, I imagine. The second oddest thing? She recently was given permission to get hormone replacement therapy, while being in prison and still serving, making her one of the first, if not the very first of the active duty soldiers to be allowed to come out and be treated medically for being trans.
Of course, Manning has tarnished the trans name for many military personnel. She is the first person they think of and she is an example of doing the opposite of what a soldier is supposed to do with confidential military intelligence. Why couldn’t the trans poster child for the military be one of the Navy Seals who helped get Bin Laden or something? Ever heard of Kristin Beck? She was one of the Navy Seals who helped get Bin Laden. She transitioned after leaving the military.
Which brings me to this: The VA treats trans vets. They give trans vets hormones. The military is already well aware they have a bunch of trans folk working for them. If they serve and retire while remaining closeted they get treatment in spite of knowing full well they were, “Unfit to serve” and keeping it secret, or even lying about it until it did not matter any more.
Studies have concluded that a higher percentage of trans people serve in the military than there are trans people in the general population by as much as 300%. Why? It has to do with masculinity. The military is seen as a masculine job. Femininity in our culture is frowned upon, especially among males. Men are taught to be masculine and teach each other to remain so. Women are taught that it is okay to be masculine or a Tom boy. So, trans men join as women because it is a place where they can be masculine and trans women join as men to overcompensate for their feminine side. The military already serves as a noble refuge for closeted trans folk of any gender.
I understand the trans female perspective first hand, so I totally understand why they would join, thinking it may help repress those trans and dysphoric feelings. Thinking it would hide their inner female from friends and family. Many trans soldiers LOVE their jobs but, dysphoria is a bitch. Military personnel enlist and then they must serve a specific amount of time, honorably, before they earn the benefits they have worked for. So many trans people join and then see that deadline they have to get to, and they realize that the military has not cured their being dysphoric, it has just trapped them and kept them from transitioning for an even longer time, thus amplifying their dysphoria.
The decision to transition comes at different times for every trans person. Many never need to. It does not mean they aren’t trans. But, wow, imagine discovering the primal need to transition three years before your job will allow it, and if you don’t do your job, you will have to explain to people why you were discharged in every job interview for the rest of your life. It just might be enough to cause a person to spill national security secrets…
Many of the strongest arguments against allowing trans folk to serve have to do with the fact that certain medical conditions will exclude a person from joining. The need to take regular medication excludes many from being in the military. Certain surgical procedures can also exempt a person from joining.
As for medicine, hormones can be implanted much like certain types of birth control, only needing to be changed every six or so months. If a trans person is in a combat role, and they need to take regular meds, that could really be an issue, but I don’t know of many combat situations that would go for more than six months without access to modern medicine, unless a soldier is captured, or we are really getting our asses kicked, which are risks all soldiers are already willing to take.
The surgery thing is more difficult. Certain surgeries make a person ineligible to serve because once the surgery is performed there is a risk of complications for the rest of their life, and the military wants to know their soldiers are in proper working order when they join or are drafted.
I will come back to that, but first, there is the shower/locker room/bunking issue. I can see how a trans woman with a penis or a trans man with a vagina could lead to awkward situations, especially during basic training and even in close combat situations. Hell, if you are not trans and the idea makes you feel awkward, rest assured, the idea is at least as awkward to me too.
Which brings me back to surgery. In most sports that allow trans athletes, one of the requirements is typically that they must be post-op. I figure this is because of locker rooms mainly because I am hard pressed to think of a sport that actively and athletically makes use of a person’s junk. Let me know in the comments if you can think of one.
Sports require surgery. So, it does not sound like the type of surgery that leads to complications under stress, after it has healed.
But then, there are the trans folk who are non-op by choice. I can see how that could be uncomfortable for everyone involved, in a forced locker room situation. Bathrooms tend to have stalls. Locker rooms? Bunking situations? Er…
So, I return to a previous point. Trans folk tend to join the military as a way to salve or hide their need to transition. I suspect there will be very few people joining the military mid transition. Transition is enough work. The vast majority of trans folk will come out during their service. Some would join post transition. Few would enlist mid transition, because we don’t want to force any of the problems that would complicate an already complicated time of life.
So many cisgender people think trans folk transition in part because they WANT to show their junk to other people. I understand. That is what happens when all you know about trans people comes from accidental clicks on porn sites.
The fact is trans people do not generally want to make a big deal about bathrooms or their junk. It is the cisgender folks who seem to dwell on that part of transition. I understand. That part of transition is the weirdest part to someone lucky enough to have a brain that matches their body. It fascinates and often enough, repulses cis folk. Kind of like televised car chases.
So, the majority of trans folk who are or will be in the military, likely will not come out until after they join. By then, they will have been trained and specialized. Our soldiers are generally smart enough to know that if they are incapable of doing an assigned task, they will be removed from that task.
If a soldier needs surgery, they are treated. If they can not recover fully, they are honorably discharged or reassigned. If they need to take regular medication, they are given the same treatment, depending on the condition.
People forget, most military jobs are not on the front lines. Most jobs can be done by trans people without even dealing with the locker room issues.
Can you honestly say that a pilot with combat experience should have their honor and training negated because they are trans? Who wins there? Our military is just stuck needing to invest in another, less experienced pilot.
So, if our military truly wants the best person for each job, some of those people are going to be trans and, they will be even better if they are allowed to serve openly.
Story time. I had to register for the draft because I was male. I was 25 on 9/11. I still had over one year left. Like many people my age, I knew the draft might be instated at any time. Had I been drafted, I would have served. I just knew, being trans, that I could not in good conscious enlist. It would be based on a lie but still, I seriously considered enlisting.
So back to the comment sections on the Internet, when I make a point about this topic, former military, knowing I am trans and out, tend to reply with something like, “Well, you have never served so what the fuck do you know?”
At those times, I tell them no, I have not, I just had a front row seat on 9/11. Depending on how rude and transphobic they were, I have even asked some of them how many Americans they have seen die with their own eyes because I sure as Hell know I saw more. In a way, I was drafted on that day. We all were.
One final note, trans people can serve openly in federal and federal contracting jobs. There may already be a trans person legally taking a leak in the stall next to a cisgender officer in Afghanistan, even as you are reading this. It is no big deal.
p.s. Take a chance to change a mind in a comment section some time. Feel free to be OUT there trans peeps! Some people really need the help.