The biggest news about transgender issues this year so far is the military ban.
If you missed it, here’s a recap: President Trump announced that openly transgender people cannot serve in the American military. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
There is outrage all over the media and heated arguments around me wherever I go—the office, the night school classroom, the nightclub.
My position: yes, of course transgender people should be able to serve in the military. All people who are courageous and generous enough to willingly risk their lives for their country should be able to apply to serve. And anyone who can pass all the rigorous tests and requirements should be able to serve.
And though I think many of the qualifications should be changed or relaxed, I also think that no exceptions should be made regarding them once in place—whatever standards a military uses should be the same for all people.
I like to think I stand in a nation leading the world in progress on human rights issues, but this is not always true. And Trump has had many bedfellows. Under every Republican and Democrat president so far, trans people have not been allowed to serve openly. He isn’t changing anything, only reversing an attempted reversal.
There are sadly very few world armies that allow transgender people to serve. The Israeli Defence Forces are the most progressive—sort of. In Israel, all citizens with few exceptions are REQUIRED to serve. Some don’t consider this progressive at all. In Canada, all are welcome—but Canada has little involvement in actual combat.
Australia, Thailand, Sweden, Denmark and more welcome transgender people into the military, and each has particular regulations regarding who is legally trans and how much time after transition that a person is ready for service.
Trump’s clumsy bellowing is always a deep embarrassment to all good people. He referred to the “tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” No, Mr. President—trans military recruit hopefuls or members are not a “burden.” It’s disgusting to say so.
What isn’t discussed in the outrage hurling, however, is that mid-transition trans people can’t serve the military but it’s not now and never has been because they are transgender—it’s because undergoing surgeries and time consuming procedures like dilation—six hours a day to start—are preoccupying, and war can hurt you when you are vulnerable. Many other people undergoing non-trans related procedures and surgeries cannot serve in the military either.
Indeed, military discrimination is so intense that almost no one is eligible! Anything and everything can disqualify you from service. These include open fines like parking tickets! Tattoos on head, face, neck or fingers. Racist tattoos. Having more than four tattoos between the elbow and the wrist! A history of ADHD medication. “Frequent” venereal disease history. History of cannabis use. Alcohol dependence or overuse. Recurring hemorrhoids! Inflammatory bowel disease. Anemia. Some orthodontic appliances or artificial dental prosthesis that “prevent adequate mastication.” Thyroid disorders which are very common among women, cis and trans. Diabetes. Insufficient flexibility. Overweight. Severe ingrown toenails! Severe menstrual cramps. HIV. Motion sickness! Recurring hives. Severe acne! Sleepwalking.
So there it is.
The discussion of equal human rights for trans people is more important than ever. And all things being equal, no one should be disqualified who passes all the medical and social and skill requirements.
That won’t be many of us, and we are lucky to have any.