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Silence Is No Longer An Option

By Phil Fishman

Transgender Ban in the Military


Whether or not the ban was a well thought out move, perhaps another intended diversion from the Russia investigation: or just one of the President’s impulsive acts, the question is if the ban itself makes sense.

I think it fair to guess that Trump’s supporters, other than the LBGT people who had relied on his campaign promise to treat them fairly, will be overwhelmingly in favor. In addition, I suspect that most political conservatives, including those who are ‘Never Trumpers’ will be supportive; as I was initially.

But as with any debatable issue; it is prudent to withhold emotion and also to define the terms. We all understand that a person who has undergone surgery and hormonal treatments and presents himself or herself in that changed sex is a transgender person. And we might include persons who have not undergone surgery; but have begun hormonal treatments.

But what about the person who is just confused about his or her sexual identity; and has no plan to alter it? For the sake of argument, let’s put the latter individual in the transgender category. The two main arguments against allowing transgenders in the military are ‘unfit for duty’ and “degradation of unit cohesiveness”.

The unfit for duty argument is based on the notion that transgender people are mentally ill, predisposed to fits of depression and suicidal thoughts. Many psychologists feel that depression and suicidal thoughts are not so much a symptom of gender dysphoria as the reaction to being viewed as a second class citizen. But aside from that is the fact that depression is a fairly common ailment in the general population; and while suicidal thoughts are not as prevalent, they too occur. At present there does not seem to be any psychological screening before enlistment. If depression and suicidal thoughts are considered to be detrimental to military service; perhaps a psychological examination should be added to the compulsory physical exam.

The second argument states that the inclusion of transgender individuals would be detrimental to morale and unit cohesiveness. Currently, gays and lesbians serve openly. Is there reason to believe that effect on morale would be worse with transgender individuals? All of the arguments are plain conjecture; but as the saying goes, “The proof is in the pudding.” Eighteen countries, including Israel, Canada, Australia and the UK have no restrictions for transgenders in the military with no apparent problems above and beyond what occurs in the general population.

The last and overriding question, however, is the Constitutionality of Trump’s ban. It most likely will be overturned by the courts as discriminatory; but I doubt that Trump will be all that upset. His proposal has certainly taken some of the focus off the Russia investigation. And the court override will allow him to further appeal to his base by railing against the liberal bias of the courts, while taking more attention away from the investigation. You may not like the man; but you would have to admit that he is one clever fellow.

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