That’s how (minus the question mark) Steven Petrow, a gay Washington Post columnist, characterizes President Trump’s decision to reinstate the ban on transgender people in the military. This characterization tells us plenty about what’s wrong with leftist identity-politics.
The question of whether transgender people should serve in the military is first and foremost a decision about how best to defend America militarily. The purpose of our armed forces is not to promote or reject the LGBT agenda. Its purpose is not to serve as a model for tolerance of transgender and other LGBT people, or to afford them employment opportunities, or even to treat them fairly as individuals. The purpose of our armed forces is to defend the country from its enemies.
Does a ban on services by transgender people serve this purpose? I don’t know.
Petrow cites a 2016 Rand Corporation study, commissioned by the Pentagon, that led the Obama administration to lift the ban. That’s one important piece of evidence. However, it was pretty clear the direction in which Obama wanted to go, so I can’t help but wonder whether the results of the study were preordained. (For a discussion of the manipulation associated with Obama’s decision to ditch “don’t ask, don’t tell,” see this post I wrote in 2010).
Dan McLaughlin at NRO offers countervailing evidence. He cites a 2015 study by the National Center for Transgender Equality. It found:
Fifty three percent (53%) of [transgender] respondents aged 18 to 25 reported experiencing current serious psychological distress [compared to 10% of the general population] . . . Forty percent (40%) of respondents have attempted suicide at some point in their life, compared to 4.6% in the U.S. population.
Forty-eight percent (48%) of respondents have seriously thought about killing themselves in the past year, compared to 4% of the U.S. population, and 82% have had serious thoughts about killing themselves at some point in their life . . .
29% of respondents reported illicit drug use, marijuana consumption, and/or nonmedical prescription drug use in the past month, nearly three times the rate in the U.S. population (10%)
Military veteran and Bronze Star recipient David French, also at NRO, argues that the military is justified in making decisions based on group characteristics:
Do people with certain kinds of criminal backgrounds tend to be more trouble than they’re worth? They’re out. How about folks with medical conditions that have a tendency to flare up in the field. They’re out also.
It’s foolish to create a force that contains numbers of people who are disproportionately likely to have substantial problems. Increased injuries lead to manpower shortages in the field. Prolonged absences create training gaps. Physical weakness leads to poor performance.
It may well be true that military service is one way that transgender people can feel more accepted in society. Again, however, that’s not the purpose of the military.
The military has to make hard choices on the basis of odds, probabilities, and centuries of hard-earned experience. Our national existence – ultimately, our very civilization – depends on getting those answers right. And if there’s one thing that any person learns in war, “fairness” has absolutely nothing to do with the outcome.
The battlefield is the most unjust place on earth.
Again, I don’t know what the correct answer is on transgender people serving in the military. But I submit that French’s mode of analysis is the correct one. Focusing on whether a ban amounts to “an attack on the LBGT community” is the wrong mode.