Should Sex Determine Military Service?


Chelsea Chaibi, Editor-in-Chief

On July 26th, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a directive banning transgenders from serving in the military. A recent RAND Study indicates that “there are an estimated 1,320–6,630 transgender service members in the active component” of the military

(study ), but as of right now, those already in service may continue.  However, the Department of Defense is restricted from providing them medical treatment for reassignment surgery. “Estimates derived from data from surveys and private health insurance claims indicate that between 29 and 129 active service members could seek transition-related care that could ‘disrupt their ability to deploy,’ the study states.” Based on this statistic from the same study, much less than 10% of the transgender military population would be denied medical treatment.  Still, Trump’s action has caused an uproar in the LGBTQ community, and in some sections of the straight community as well. The Presidential decree has initiated both a philosophical and ethical debate. Should one’s sexual identity influence his/her ability to serve in the military? If one’s ability to serve is influenced by the need for medical treatment, is it the military’s obligation to provide this treatment in order to make a soldier deployable? Difficult questions in changing times.

Students here at HHS have to carefully consider their opinions on this action. Modern Conflicts teacher Mr. Tom King states, “People [transgenders] can serve, but I don’t want my tax dollars going towards the surgery that transgenders often get.” King is not the only one who shares this philosophy. According to online sources, there are other reasons some disapprove of transgenders serving in general: 1)the targeting of chaplains or other religious figures in the military will increase;  2) studies indicate that transgenders have higher suicide, anxiety and depression rates; and 3) the maintenance required to keep transgenders in “switch” or reassignment mode is expensive and could interfere with basic duties. Junior Andrew Addy states, “The suicide and depression rate are much higher in a situation of war, especially in those with gender dysphoria. With these people being unstable in such a way, they could jeopardize the chances of winning at war. This makes them a liability, not an asset.”

Contrastingly, those who approve of transgenders in the military state: 1) their admission provides for greater numbers to serve the country;  2) their acceptance shows no discrimination; 3) transgender’ suicide rates are actually lower than those of teens; and lastly 4) all transgenders don’t need expensive injections to continue their reassignment. Senior Darienne Morgan states, “Why should being transgender be a factor in serving our country? It doesn’t make sense to discriminate against someone for changing him or herself, so that person can love him or herself.” Morgan is not alone in these thoughts. In New York City and in other areas, protesters gathered to demonstrate their anger against this ban.   Junior Caily Tingler expresses her anger by stating, “There are more important things to be worried about. Transgenders’ medical problems are not the only health risks that take government money.”

America prides itself on its determination to “do the right thing,” but in an argument such as this one, there appears to be no clear ethical or philosophical choice. Just as times are changing, so is the social climate and its institutions, like the military. Serving the country is an honor, but many honors are based on the idea of restriction and elimination.  What those limitations should be continue to fuel the transgenders in the military controversy.