Issues are always more complex when it comes to making policy for the military. In war, the enemy doesn’t care about good intentions or political correctness. U.S. service members’ lives and our national security are on the line every time a policy is made or changed.
These high stakes can sometimes lead to small issues becoming complicated or cause problems for the military that U.S. society has already solved. It might not be surprising to some that the U.S. Department of Defense is the only federal agency to have a ban on the service of transgender personnel. However, even with the complicated nature of the military, it is time for the U.S. to broaden its discussion and seriously consider if it wants to continue its ban on transgender military personnel.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel brought the U.S. military’s ban on transgender service members back into the national conversation in May when he appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and said the policy “continually should be reviewed.” Hagel also said, “Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it.”
Hagel’s comments came after an independent commission released a report calling for an end to the ban on transgender service members. San Francisco State University commissioned the five-member panel that included Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General, and Rear Adm. Alan Steinman, the former Coast Guard Chief Health and Safety Director. Since then, multiple LGBT advocacy groups have intensified their fight to end the ban.
Since the commission’s report and Hagel’s comments there has been a lot of talk about ending the ban, but no action. The White House deferred the issue to the DOD and Hagel has refused to take a stand on either side.
According to Baylor’s statement on human sexuality, It is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.
While the Lariat editorial board does not condone this lifestyle, we support any American’s right to serve in the military as long as they are qualified; and their sexual orientation is not enough to disqualify them from military service.
About 15,500 service members and 134,300 veterans are transgender, according to the commission. Also, at least 12 other nations currently allow them to openly serve in the military, including Israel, England and Canada.
The 15,000 service members who currently serve have to hide their identities and are not afforded access to vital health care specific to their needs, such as hormone therapy. If the military discovers these service members are transgender, they are discharged from the military and lose all access to benefits, even if they had served a long and honorable career. These people lose their career and the access to health care they would have been guaranteed as veterans, including mental health treatment.
The DOD enacted the ban on transgender service members in the 1960s because, at that time, the consensus in the psychiatric community was that people suffered from a mental disorder if they believed they were a gender other than what they were born.
It was also believed that the logistics of providing the unique medical services, necessary for transgender personnel would be too complex and expensive.
However, the consensus in the psychiatric community has changed and now states that these people do not have a mental disorder. Also, in their May report, the commission said, “We determined not only that there is no compelling medical reason for the ban, but also that the ban itself is an expensive, damaging and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel who serve currently in the active, Guard and reserve components.”
It is also true that many service members are allowed to serve, and deploy, with medical conditions requiring special treatment similar to potential the medical necessities of transgender people. For example, insulin-dependent diabetics are allowed to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan. If the DOD can provide insulin, which has to be kept refrigerated, to personnel on remote combat outposts then surely they can provide transgender service members with the care they need.
The U.S. military’s logistics system should not be underestimated. Thanks to modern medical, technological and logistical advances, transgender people can serve their nation without taking a greater risk than anyone else and without compromising the mission.
Other questions have been raised about which service uniform they should wear or which billeting they would live in, male or female.
These questions obviously need to be answered, but are very trivial compared to the big picture. The transgender service member should wear the uniform of the sex they identify with, and keep the grooming standards of that sex.
What barracks they should live in could also be decided by the sex they identify with. The military already has homosexual personnel living with heterosexual service members. These are professional adults and can be trusted to handle these types of living conditions.
This is a complex issue for the Christian community. Many Christians believe that this lifestyle is a choice and immoral. However, Christians also want to be kind, compassionate and express to the world that God loves all of his children.
There is also the fact that thousands of transgender U.S. military personnel are already honorably serving their country, during a time of war, and the nation is grateful for that service.
There are already multiple groups of people serving in the U.S. military with which Christians have a moral disagreement. For example, atheists are allowed to openly serve. Just because the Christian community doesn’t protest their service, doesn’t mean they endorse atheism. The same would be true for not protesting transgender service members.
Transgender Americans are still Americans and deserve the same rights as every other citizen. Does the DOD have enough to justify its ban on transgender service members? At the very least, it is time for the Christian community and America to start the discussion.