The recent statement regarding banning military service by transgender Americans that was issued via Twitter by President Trump is astonishing, shocking and profoundly troubling. But it is not entirely unexpected.
I am a former Army infantry officer with over 10 years commissioned service. I served as a platoon leader and company commander as well as in division and theater staff positions. Military readiness and capabilities were a part of my job and my training. I am also a transgender veteran and a leader in the transgender community. I have spoken with other former officers and NCOs with equal or greater experience on this matter.
Mr. Trump’s statements are truly astonishing because he made a great show of supporting LGBT Americans, even declaring that Caitlin Jenner could use any restroom in Trump Tower.
They are shocking in that he undermined the entire military command and staff process, a process that works tremendously well and has been refined over two centuries, in 10 minutes. For all his fawning about how “my generals” are really smart, he has jumped the chain of command and usurped their authority.
The most profoundly troubling aspect, however, is the lack of concern for the stability of our military. Stability speaks not only to manpower but confidence in senior leadership. With our military facing declines in enlistment rates across the board and growing demands around the world, we are stretching our limits for projecting power. It is alarming that the commander-in-chief is either oblivious to the impact of this precipitous declaration, or worse is willing to eliminate the equivalent of two aircraft carrier crews from service. He is also either oblivious to, or complicit in, undermining the authority of senior leadership in one of the nation’s most trusted institutions.
The factors he cited fall into three categories — deployability, competence and cost. All three are red herrings hiding an inherent bias against transgender people. I know hundreds of veterans and many active and reserve component service members who have been exemplary performers throughout their careers in all fields. Many just happen to be transgender.
The first claim is that a transgender service members will have a long period of non-deployability. Some of our detractors are quoting a period of a year. The truth is that the recovery period for surgery is approximately two months. Some trans people who are elite athletes begin training again after six weeks and are back in peak shape within a couple more months.
I have personally been non-deployable for a period of three months at one point in my career due to having meningitis, but I was never considered unable to perform my duties. Current policy already considers the needs of the service and deployability in considering when to allow each service member to schedule surgery.
Another objection is that service members will become unable to perform their responsibilities. With three women completing the Army’s Ranger school and several supporting Special Operating Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and the military’s opening of all specialties to women and basing specialty qualification on ability rather than gender, this objection is now irrelevant.
Finally, the claim is that the cost is exorbitant. Again, this claim is a myth. Gender confirming surgery (GCS) is relatively inexpensive when compared to numerous other procedures. While the cost is more than can be borne out of pocket, the cost of basic transitional surgery is no more than that of many very common surgeries.
Even many Republican legislators have expressed bewilderment at Trump’s policy announcement. We have to ask ourselves: How can a service member at ANY level, including the most senior commanders, or the people of this country have any confidence that Trump really is “acting on the advice of my generals” when he decides to employ our military in the future?
I state these facts and ask these questions a veteran and former officer.