Jewdar has said it before, and we’ll say it again–the US military is not a social experimentation lab. As Donald Trump recently said:
To that end, our main criteria for who should be allowed to serve is, was, and always will be, is that person a good soldier.
gay and a good soldier? Fine.
racist and a good soldier? Fine
transgender and a good soldier? Fine
satanist and a good soldier? Fine
Now, nobody should pretend to “speak for the soldiers.” Between the various components of the military, there are over 2 million military personnel. The notion that “the troops” believe this or that tends to be hyperbolic in any way. But having been an enlisted infantryman, Jewdar can claim to at least have some first hand experience with what at least some of the troops believe–certainly, that puts us ahead of oh, say, a certain draft-dodger talking about “unit cohesion.”
The fact is that, as a rule, soldiers care about accomplishing the mission. Soldiers who get the job done are liked and respected; those that sham, or complain, or are incompetent, are not. It’s pretty much that simple. Politicians used to talk about “unit cohesion” when it came to gays. The fact is that back in the late 80’s, we were a bunch of 18 and 19 year-old guys; there were obviously guys in the unit we thought were gay (And some, doubtlessly, had their suspicions about Jewdar). But none of us cared–what mattered was whether or not they did their job.
The same rule should apply to transgender troops. Now, to be sure, there should be some restrictions. And it should be pointed out that, pretty much by definition, the military is a restrictive institution. It is pretty ridiculous for the military to pay for gender transition surgery. And it is perfectly reasonable for the military to house soldiers based on their biology, or, at the very least, anatomy. There might be some people who can’t serve and live they way they wan to live, but that applies to a whole lot of people. We were talking to the littlest Jewdar the other day about enlisting after high school, after he expressed a desire to do so. We would love it if the US army provided kosher kitchens. But we understand that this is not the army’s job. If keeping kosher is essential for you, then maybe you can’t be in the US Army. That may apply to some transgender people as well. But that should be their choice–the military should give them the same options as everybody else.
And, as we’ve said again and again, Jewdar believes in our military, and it always mystifies me that people can go on and on about how incredible the US military is, how it can do anything–except for integrate gays, or women, or the transgender… If you really believe in our military, then trust them to accomplish their mission. If we could take Omaha Beach, and kill Osama bin Laden, I think we can handle figuring out a policy for allowing transgender troops to serve.
Finally, Trump’s tweet highlights what we see as one of the real problems in America today–the all-or-nothing attitude in politics. Obama’s decision to have the military pay for gender transition surgery was stupid (and to be clear, Jewdar has no problem with paying for hormone therapy). Trump’s decision to ban all transgender personnel is stupid. How about our leaders act like grown-ups for a bit, recognize that there are real complexities involved, and come up with a policy that will allow the largest number of qualified people to serve their country in a way that does not create new categories of entitlement or create an unnecessary financial drain.
And one last thing–if Chelsea Manning really cares about this issue, she should probably keep her mouth shut. Reminding people that the US army’s most prominent traitor is transgender (and had her transition surgery paid for by the army) is not really likely to win people over.