President Trump announced that the U.S. military would no longer “accept or allow” transgender individuals from serving in the armed forces.
How many transgendered servicemen and women are there currently? The official estimate is around 2,450 of the 1.3 million on active duty. But the Defense Department thinks the number is in the low hundreds. The army knows of 80 transgender soldiers. The navy knows of 160 transgender sailors. The Marines cite only a handful but gives no numbers. Nor does the Air Force.
President Trump’s action reverses the policy set down by the Obama administration. It also pre-empts a study of the issue being conducted by the Pentagon.
The announcement has sparked the predictable outrage from LGBT activists and their sympathizers, who are claiming that Trump is violating his promise to protect their interests. Social conservatives are praising the decision.
The military argument against service by the transgendered is that this creates distractions and discipline problems in the field (including possible mistreatment). The purpose of the military is “lethality” against our enemies, and accommodating people’s lifestyle choices does not contribute to that mission. (This would also seem to apply to the question of women in combat roles.)
The main argument for transgender military service is that democracies have a citizen’s army in which the people of the nation defend themselves. That would call for participation of citizens in all their diversity. (This would also be an argument for universal service, as in democracies like Finland and Switzerland.)
President Trump touched off a firestorm Wednesday after tweeting that he wants to ban transgender people from serving in the U.S. military in any capacity — citing advice from his “generals” and medical costs.
In a series of tweets, he wrote:
“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. Thank you.”
The president’s tweets came only a few weeks after Defense Secretary James Mattis said he would give military chiefs another six months to conduct a review to determine if allowing transgender individuals to enlist in the armed services will affect the “readiness or lethality” of the force. The deadline for that review was Dec. 1, 2017.
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