U.S. combat veteran who served on two deployments in Afghanistan gives public support for the friends and colleagues directly affected by the transgender ban. He qualifies it as immoral, cruel, and unnecessary.
President Donald Trump recently issued a ban of dubious legality on transgendered soldiers serving openly in the U.S. military via Twitter. The transgender ban has been the subject of much-justified outrage and fury, which is likely to grow, and some limited, smug support, which is likely to diminish.
As a two-time combat veteran of Afghanistan, I felt it was my duty to express public support for the friends and colleagues of mine who are directly affected by the ban, as well as others in the LGBTQI+ community who justifiably feel threatened by this ominous and senseless step backwards . I did so, and followed the story closely as it unfolded.
Before anything else: Trump’s ban on transgendered soldiers is immoral, cruel, and unnecessary. The studies were made, the hands were wrung, and the military decided to go ahead with integrating transgendered soldiers, long before Trump’s ban.There are three major arguments against including transgendered soldiers in the military, and each is deeply flawed.
First, there is the financial argument that transgendered soldiers are too costly. In an organization that develops trillion dollar boondoggles and loses billions, the idea that a few millions of dollars spent on increasing the happiness of U.S. citizens so that society is more supportive of the military is absurd from any perspective. The U.S. employs contractors that do the job of soldiers for three times the price. The U.S. maintains bases in strategically untenable backwaters. The U.S. has an entire branch—the U.S. Marine Corps—that is redundant, so it can do smaller international missions faster. Of the innumerable ways to cut costs in the military, and do so effectively (to the profit of taxpayers and citizens around the globe), transgendered soldiers don’t even make the top 100.
Second, there is the religious or moral argument against transgendered soldiers serving. This stance, embraced by certain conservative religious elements, is also the stance held by groups like the Taliban, ISIS the Nazis. As the U.S. prides itself specifically on not being like the Nazis or ISIS or the Taliban, we can leave that argument where it lies, for evil people to make so that they expose themselves as such.
Thirdly and finally, there’s the systemic argument—that transgendered soldiers are burdensome to the military, and that the military should be focused purely on winning and defeating its foes.
To begin with, the U.S. military has not lost a significant military engagement on military terms since World War II—it is designed to win battles, and does so, fairly easily. The U.S. writ large has lost wars, though, such as Vietnam, as well as the ongoing losing it oversees in Iraq and Afghanistan (where Iran and Pakistan have won, respectively).
These are wars that are lost because democratic nations are not geared to fight wars, and the way to keep wars going in the context of a democracy is to ensure that there is political willpower to continue fighting.
The ban on transgendered soldiers creates antipathy for the military and the government. From the perspective of a pacifist uninterested in foreign expansion it is good (or, an evil that accomplishes a good). Otherwise, keeping transgendered soldiers out of the military is an issue that undermines its readiness and strategic warmaking capability with the context of the U.S. as a democratic nation.
There are numerous other bad arguments against transgendered people serving in the U.S., and many more compelling reasons in favor of their service.
Overall, unless you’re a religious extremist or a Nazi who is paradoxically dedicated to continuing America’s string of strategic defeats, or you are bad at math or have done no research and are therefore under the incorrect impression that transgendered people serving in the military will create or add meaningfully to an economic hardship for the U.S., there’s no good reason to oppose them serving in the military.
The Tyranny of Numbers
It is important to discredit arguments against transgendered people serving in the military, or in any other capacity in our society. At the same time, it’s worth pointing out that this is a human rights issue—an issue fundamental to a Western country that purports to base its reason for being on the Enlightenment and humanism—the animating ideas by which America’s Constitution and Declaration of Independence were written. Both of these posit that humans have inalienable and illogical moral rights that supersede those of a state or any non-human enterprise.
Those documents were imperfect, and society has progressed a long way since then. That infamously myopic original definition of humanity has been expanded to include women, blacks, and children, among others. Indeed, the expansion of the definition of human is what’s driven many of the most important social and intellectual advances of the 20th and 21st centuries.Things that the authors of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence did not do apart from the aforementioned disagreeable part that everyone likes to ignore because it makes us look horrible:
1) Attempt to assign financial value to a human life2) Compare that value with other values, in order to make a point about policy3) Draw parallels with other examples as a way of justifying or rationalizing their view of human rights
Why is this? Because the authors of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence knew that to argue about the worth or value of a thing means to abandon the entire premise on which human rights is based. A thing is either invaluable or it isn’t. If one believes that human life and ambition can be assigned a value, one is operating in a pre-Enlightenment model in which ideas like democracy, capitalism, and human rights return to their materialist origins—this is to say, slavery.
Arguments about the value or utility of a human life and arguments about expenditures being necessary insofar as they effect humans are all the same: arguments for certain kinds of slavery.
Back to my original point: the ban on transgendered soldiers serving openly in the military is clearly immoral. Any U.S. citizen (and even some non-citizens, depending on certain programs) can serve openly provided that they pass the same tests as everyone else. Citizenship guarantees one’s inalienable human rights. This is the first and last point in the discussion about the ban, anything else is irrelevant or even harmful.
Adrian Bonenberger is a writer and journalist living in Ukraine. Bonenberger served with the 173rd Airborne and the 10th Mountain Division.