Below is a press release for the American Humanist Association. I thought it might be worthy of a little discussion. The question, I suppose, is whether the military is any way different to any other walk of life. There are arguments that are similar to the women on the frontline sort of approach.
First, here is something from the Tawani Foundation concerning the Trump administration’s approach to transgender people in the military:
There’s a new twist in the Trump administration’s effort to stop transgender Americans from serving in the military. In a Dec. 10 hearing before the D.C. Court of Appeals, a Justice Department lawyer highlighted information about the number of transgender troops serving—about 9,000, based on survey answers from active-duty members.
One would think this an odd way to open the argument, because it shows the significant contribution transgender Americans are making in our defense, despite efforts to demean their service. A lot of people serving in uniform will be affected by whether federal courts let the ban take effect.
But then the government pivoted to a smaller number—the 937 transgender service members who have come forward to begin the rigorous administrative and medical process, set up more than two years ago, to qualify to serve in a gender consistent with their gender identity. But this emphasis is odd too. In 2017, Republicans in the House pushed a bill to ban transgender service based on the argument that too many people would want to transition gender, and that this was too disruptive and too expensive. Research disproved their claims—and they lost the vote anyway—but why emphasize now that relatively few people had, at least so far, sought to transition gender?
The Trump administration’s new tack was to argue that this relatively low number to date meant that the ban wasn’t even a ban, and so courts should allow the new policy crafted by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to go into effect. The government argued that Mattis had actually eased Trump’s tweeted ban, and so the injunctions protecting trans troops were no longer justified.
It wasn’t really a ban, so went the argument, because the Trump/Mattis plan said that people who identify as transgender can serve provided they don’t have gender dysphoria (the medical term for divergence between birth sex and gender identity) and they agree to serve for the duration in birth sex. The government’s pitch was, in essence, “Look at the thousands of transgender troops who are happy serving in birth gender. They won’t mind if new policy prohibits gender transition.” (One of the other judges on the panel reasonably noted that it seemed a contradiction in terms to state that transgender people were not impacted by a ban on gender transition.)
This may or may not be connected to other arguments against inclusion:
There are arguments against the inclusion of transgender people in military service. One argument is based on the view that being transgender is a mental illness, and as such transgender individuals are unfit for service. This argument follows a high incidence of depression and suicide manifest in transgender individuals. This is especially pertinent in individuals who have had sex-reassignment surgery and are unsatisfied with the results; in such cases severe depression is prevalent. Hormone therapy can affect mood and a sense of well-being, a factor that counts against inclusion of transgender people and its effect on service capability. Besides the well-being argument of hormone treatment, complications may arise due to hormone treatments. Possible complications arising from estrogen and testosterone therapies include an increased risk of thromboembolic disease, myocardial infarction, breast cancer, fertility problems, stroke, abnormal liver function, renal disease, endometrial cancer, and osteoporosis. Any of these could cause significant issues to effective military service, especially when deployed in remote areas or in field training settings.
A further argument is that in order to have an effective, smooth-running military, there must be cohesion within the unit. It is argued that transgender individuals would have a negative impact on unit cohesion. “The bonds of trust among individual service members” are vital. There is a fear that if transgender personnel be allowed to serve openly, morale will be detrimentally affected. But this argument neglects to deal with the question of what kinds of structural accommodations might be needed to maintain morale and unit cohesion in such situations. Military service forces members into very intimate living quarters. Requiring members to live in situations that make them feel disconcerted and uncomfortable may result in their performance being undermined. The logistics of accommodating a group of individuals with such varying degrees of gender representation would be staggering. The costs alone of allowing transgender people to serve counts heavily against inclusion. Not only logistically and structurally, but also in medical costs. It is estimated that a male-to-female transition can cost between US$7,000 and $24,000; female-to-male transition can exceed US$50,000. Which, depending on policy, the military may have to fund.
This is the AHA media release:
(Washington D.C., January 22, 2019) – Leaders at the American Humanist Association (AHA) expressed their disappointment in today’s Supreme Court decision allowing the enforcement of the Trump administration’s ban on transgender military service members. “In America, everyone is entitled to fair treatment in the workplace, including the thousands of service members who identify as transgender,” says American Humanist Association Executive Director Roy Speckhardt. “This decision is a slap in the face to those bravely serving our country, their families, and anyone who values equal protection under the law as the US Constitution is supposed to guarantee.”
While the Court majority will allow the ban to go forward as lower courts address the case, Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissented.
“Today’s ruling is another example of bigotry and Christian nationalism overriding legal protections for all Americans,” says Tris Mamone, advisory board member of the LGBTQ Humanist Alliance. “The Trump administration has never been a friend to the LGBTQ community, and this policy is another example of that hostility. We at the American Humanist Association stand in solidarity with those, regardless of gender identity, who serve our country in the armed forces.”
The American Humanist Association (AHA) works to protect the rights of humanists, atheists, and other nontheistic Americans. The AHA advances the ethical and life-affirming worldview of humanism, which—without beliefs in gods or other supernatural forces—encourages individuals to live informed and meaningful lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
By excluding a demographic from equal service, militaries are overtly intensifying the stigma of that group’s civic inferiority. This is supported by the notion that all citizens are obligated to serve their nations if the need arises. Allowing transgender military personnel to serve openly without fear of exclusion would be a huge step toward equality. It has been recognized by some academics that the inclusion of all LGBT personnel in the military is more than a mere human rights issue, it is argued that for militaries to survive in the twenty-first century diversity is critical.
With advancements in the current understanding of human experience, sexual identity is now better understood. Where being transgender was once considered a paraphilic disorder, the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders places being transgender in a separate chapter, terming the condition gender dysphoria. It is argued that militaries that exclude transgender people on grounds of mental illness, whose policies pathologize gender dysphoria, are at odds with the current medical understanding. This argument requires that transgender personnel be treated by the same level of medical care as all other personnel, in accordance with established medical practice.
Experts argue that there is absolutely no empirical evidence that supports the argument that transgender people are unfit for service. Often cited are factors such as a supposed predisposition of transgender individuals to problems such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts; this is countered by the prevalence of these same issues in the LGB community, yet in many countries their service is not excluded. By creating a more accepting environment, distress that transgender personnel feel might be mitigated if they may serve openly with full support.
Whilst militaries often cite the high medical cost of transgender people, they fail to reconcile this argument with current standards with other service members. For example, militaries often allow hormone treatments for an array of reasons and conditions, besides gender dysphoria; a common hormone treatment being contraceptive. Furthermore, the often cited risks of cross hormone treatment are rare, and not likely to cause any significant issues to the military. Whilst the cost of gender reassignment surgery is high, it is suggested that fewer than 2% of transgender members per year will choose to undergo gender reassignment surgery.
Perhaps one of the most supporting arguments is based on the experiences of the 18 countries that currently allow transgender service. Research on the impacts of allowing LGBT to serve openly in the Israeli Defense Forces, British Armed Forces, and Canadian Armed Forces found no necessary negative impacts on performance, unit cohesion or morality.The idea of unit cohesion can also be demonstrated by a social study conducted less than one year prior to the repeal of the ban preventing transgender personnel from serving openly in the United States military. Morten G. Ender, David E. Rohall, and Michael D. Matthews presented the American military academy, Reserve Officers Training Corps, and civilian undergraduates with a survey to assess the general attitude on the prospect of the transgender community serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. After statistical analysis, 50.8% of individuals disagreed with the ban. In regards to productivity, 72.6% of subjects say that transgender inclusion would have no impact on their ability to do their job. Finally, on the subject of visibility, 21.8% of those interviewed said they would want transgender individuals to tell them their gender preferences, 56.1% said no preference. Overall, based on this study one year prior to the ban, the majority of the people that participated in the survey showed overwhelming support towards the inclusion of the transgender community in the United States military.
In October 2017, ruling that a renewed ban within the US military should not go into force, US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly stated that the evidence presented up to that time showed that “all of the reasons proffered … for excluding transgender individuals from the military in this case were not merely unsupported, but were actually contradicted by the studies, conclusions and judgment of the military itself”.
Really, I see this more as indicative of a bias against transgender people rather than being anything specific to the military. I imagine this fits in well with the Republican, conservative ideological agenda, seen to be a vote-winner with the diehard GOP faithful. I’m not sure there is much consideration of the actual arguments for or against transgender people in the military.
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