If you’re willing to pick up a weapon, deploy thousands of miles away and potentially put your life on the line all in service to your country and democratic principles, then frankly it’s no ones business if you are transgender.

This opinion piece is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of UK Defence Journal.

I must admit I have before this week never been a fan of social change within our armed forces. I have held a pretty conservative view that the military is not an institution of social change and that we should leave it to be immune of such changes so that we can protect troop readiness and combat efficiency – simply, I wanted our military to be a fighting force not a mechanism for social change that we have in general society. But facts do speak for themselves and after a week of researching LGBTI servicemen and women in the military I came to a conclusion – if you are willing to serve your country in any of the armed forces, then we as a nation should support you, everything else is irrelevant.

However we wouldn’t be having this discussion if in a series of tweets that were capped off with a polite thank you, President Donald Trump announced that transgender people would be banned from service in the US Armed Forces. It’s sparked a debate about transgender people serving in the military and a surprisingly large amount of Americans (58%) have said that they should be allowed to serve. The main confusion with this ban isn’t so much with stopping transgender being serving within the military but more so with what position currently serving transgender people are put in – will they be removed from the military? Will they be dishonourably discharged? What about their service to their nation?

Republicans are split on the issue and Senator John McCain, a veteran of the US Armed Forces, has even said that this is a mistake, and given the talking points around it and what people are using to defend it, evidence would suggest that.

They will say – It improves preparedness.

Evidence suggests it won’t and in fact by potentially removing up to 15,000 transgender people from the military (which is the amount serving as per the US Defence Department records) you would be removing people who are highly trained, well trained patriots from their roles.

They will say – It saves the US Military money on services it should offer.

Evidence suggests 0.005 – 0.017% of the trillion dollar budget is spent on the healthcare associated with transgender troops and that is a lot. It works out to be about $80 million dollars which is a tenth of the amount spent on Viagra and other health services.

They will also say – that is preserves unit cohesion.
A point that I always believed as well, a point that a lot of people believe is correct; the military isn’t an institute of social change and military units can’t be worrying about this sort of stuff. But here’s the thing, it’s the opposite. Ever since the lifting of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (which covered Transgender troops) the opposite has happened, there hasn’t been a change or a decreased in unit cohesion; the units are working fine and the change was uniformly hailed for improving readiness.

Now some people who read this might think “well medically should they be able to serve?”. That’s a fair question – in Australia, the US and even the UK there are medical requirements (as well as fitness requirements and a lot of other requirements) for people that want to serve. These tend to be standard requirements that that everyone, regardless of who they are, need to meet. And if transgender people should just happen to meet these requirements and throughout their careers maintain such requirements and happen to maintain the requirements of their roles then who cares if they are transgender.

There is no reason why a person who meets the above standards, who is willing to pick up a weapon, deploy thousands of miles away and potentially put their life on the line all in service to their country and democratic principles should be prevented from serving in the armed forces or even forced out of the armed forces simply because of their gender identity. Personally I could give a rats ass if you are gay, lesbian or transgender and are serving the military in the UK, Australia or even the US, you’re doing something that not a lot of people would be willing to do. Right now only 19 countries allow transgender people to serve (inclusive of the UK and Australia) if the US fully implements this ban and that could be taking progress back a major step.

The next couple of months will be interesting with this debate and transgender veterans are gearing up for a fight on this topic – as they should be. Gender identity, sexual orientation – these aren’t standard boxes on a form that should disqualify you from service in the least bit. These shouldn’t even be considerations.

Now some people reading this won’t be too hot about the idea and think excluding transgender people from nation service is a good idea – but where do we stop from there? Do we then exclude these highly talented and motivated people from service in the police? What about in intelligence agencies or other security forces? This is beneath us as a society and we should never exclude those that would provide talent and knowledge as a resource in the times that we live in.

10 COMMENTS

  1. In support roles I don’t think it matters at all, but on the front line? No. No room should be made for people who are weak of body (women) and weak in terms of mental health (transgender people); take a look at suicide rates for instance, you can’t compromise on the dependency and reliability of your soldiers.

    It’s regrettable that we must be insensitive on this issue, but a squad of soldiers is supposed to be a ruthlessly efficient and lethal machine. It’s not the kind of place you float these progressive policies

  2. ‘This opinion piece is the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of UK Defence Journal.’ Well straight off the bat I think that statement is probably dishonest given the UKDJ reaction to the original article in the Daily Mail. I feel that you are using this author’s opinion to to promote your own – why not just say so??

    This issue relating people with gender dysphoria are varied and complex with some particular concerns relating to the military. These as is acknowledged do relate to unit effectiveness leading to a fall in military preparedness. Again as your author admits the military is not an equal opportunity employer in that if you suffer from a poor standard of colour perception you can be disbarred. In my day acne was a reason to be refused permission to enlist as was having a certain type of criminal record, or being too small, too heavy, short sightedness, high blood pressure, an unacceptable standard of general education etc etc. No doubt many people disbarred for these and other reasons would have been ready to ready take up arms and serve their country across the world – but that is not the qualifying criteria.

    As you suggest the military is also not a branch of a social welfare programme its aim at times is to undertake some of the most challenging tasks in the modern world. How do you introducing people already struggling with quite severe social and psychological issues to the added stress of that kind of environment?? Remembering that there are quite recent studies that show that nearly 50%of people aged from 16 – 25 suffering from gender disphoria have attempted to commit suicide on at least one occaasion. The number of people in the same age group reporting self harming is even higher.
    What effect on military efficiency especially in small units would having to concentrate on monitoring the psychological balance of one or more members of that group instead of the mission in hand?? Then imagine the effect of a suicide or self harming episode on the same small group. At that point perhaps you will begin to understand why the US military has returned to its previous standard on gender disphoria.

    This view will not of course have much effect on the relentless ‘Diversity’ warriors who are always ready to charge to the nearest keyboard to defend something or other. However they are not the same people who may be called to the heads to deal with messy results of their ideology purity. Not editors at Defence Journal or even Rear Admirals.

  3. The only questions is will transgender personnel will increase or decrease combat effectiveness and what will be cost?

    I suggest it will decrease combat effectiveness and increase costs.

    The line that if one is prepared to serve they should be allowed to is nonsensical.

    As the first poster has already said a squad of soldiers has to be ruthlessly efficient and lethal, I totally agree with that statement.

  4. It is entirely and absolutely relevant.

    From the USA’s perspective, they will disqualify from service people with asthma or bad acne, or even very flat feet!
    So, why on earth would they entertain the far more physically and mentally debilitating process of changing gender?

    On any objective level going through the massive surgical effort to have ones genitals crudely reassigned is far more debilitating than having asthma.
    The patients require long leaves of absence for their surgery and recovery, so the unit is a ‘man’ down for extended periods of time.
    They will require a cocktail of drugs and hormones post-surgery for the bulk of their remaining lives.
    Again, this is far far less benign than having asthma, so of course it should disqualify from service.

    And of course, afterwards, everything is far from plain sailing.
    Surgery to change male genitals into an impression of female genitalia usually carries problems.
    The very common one being ‘leakage’.
    Depending on the relative success of the surgery, patients will and do leak.
    Urine & blood for the most part.
    A lot of post-op transexuals have to wear incontinence pads every day to gather those leaks.
    For the rest of their lives going to the toilet can be a little challenging.

    Then there is the empirical reality that transexuals have a far higher occurrence of mental health problems.

    So, no matter what way you look at it, Transexuality absolutely places an increased burden on an armies ability to do its job with zero upside.

    Obama’s decision last year was to virtue signal to his base.
    It had no objective military merit behind it.
    Reverting to the status quo is eminently sensible.

    Why accommodate people with massive medical & psychological needs when you discard those with far more benign and manageable ailments?

    • Yes, some transgender people have significant physical and mental health needs. Many do not. What some people are advocating here is excluding people who are physically and psychologically suitable purely on the grounds of a single characteristic. There will be people currently serving in the military who are transgender and there always have been. Attempting to exclude (or even worse, drive out) transgender people from the military is reminiscent of the worst prejudices of the history of Britain, like telling black people they weren’t good enough to be soldiers or excluding homosexuals, both of which look ridiculous today. In twenty years’ time most people won’t be able to understand why this was ever an issue. The future is on the side of the progressives.

  5. UK military has an awful record of mental health and veteran care. Trans-genders have up to 10x the rates of attempted suicides than the population at large.

    Recruitment open to all with a wide net cast, accepting whoever comes to you and passes the requirements would be great.

    Actively recruiting from a vulnerable group to “stay on message” or to score promotion points is a disservice to all involved. Anyone pushing that should see the inside of a prison when the inevitable happens.

    With recruitment, the powers that be should take stock and realise the problem isn’t a lack of correctly coloured minority group flags, its the lack of opportunity offered coupled with the abandonment and betrayal of former personnel that has become the norm.

    Join the Army/Navy/Air Force, they’ll come get ya in 5-30 years and we’ll just look on and whistle.

  6. I am starting to question the slogan impartial and current. One cannot blithely dismiss this as a opinion piece due to it fitting into a pattern of criticism (Daily Mail) response that is at best misleading. Furthermore the author continuously quotes figures and polls without providing source data. This is partisan manipulation of data at best and inventing of it to suit a political/ideological at worst. If that were what I was interested in reading I would read the Daily Mail/Mirror/Sun.

    Now on the actual policy the U.S Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force all were against the policy of transgender service on the grounds of both mental health and disciplinary/cohesion grounds. But President Obama and Secretary Carter overruled them. Also when you say unit cohesion has gone up no data is cited no study quoted this is merely supposed to be taken as the Pravda or Holy Writ (How dare the knuckle draggers of the U.S Army question it).

    What Diversity warriors as one earlier commenter put it. Did not account for was the appointment of a actual combat commander and veteran General Mattis to defense secretary. In the layman someone not susceptible social justice and leftist bull. Therefore one of his first acts was to suspend trans enlistments back in January and petitioned the President to restore the old policy.

  7. Wow some interesting comments above.

    I think a fair synopsis of the piece is that provided ANYBODY can complete the strength, stamina, psychological and physical demands of military service, why deny them ?

    And I really don’t see how you can argue with that ?

    A fair article, and one of the reasons HM Forces are unfortunately ahead of our US allies.

  8. It is not an individuals right to join the military, it is the military’s right to accept the candidates they want. Equality doesn’t come in to it. Do you extend the equal right to enlist to people missing a limb? Or a blind man? Of course not. They are simply unsuitable for recruitment. The same applies to anyone with mental health issues, which gender dysphoria clearly is.

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