I was a soldier. I served for two years in the Singapore Armed Forces. My duties involved administration for my unit, focusing on personnel issues. My unit was deployed operationally to hunt for an escaped terrorist. Today I am still liable for reservist duties in a similar capacity. Based on my experiences, I can unequivocally state that I believe President Donald Trump’s decision to ban transsexuals in the military is a wise choice.
Cue outrage. Accusations of bigotry. Screeching about equality. For people who think transsexuals should be allowed to serve, only a rare handful acknowledge that such a policy carries with costs. But the ones I’ve seen count the cost in emotions and money.
The military pays the price in blood.
Others may see glory. I only see pain and sacrifice.
For people who don’t want to read on, here’s a very brief argument:
40% of all transgenders have attempted suicide at some point. Two-thirds of transsexuals suffer from multiple mental illnesses simultaneously. Why is it a good idea to allow such people easy access to weapons in a high-stress environment?
If you’re still with me, excellent. First, some clarifications. I have no problems with transsexuals who choose to transition after military service. My argument is aimed at transsexuals serving or about to serve in the military and intend to transition during their service.
With this in mind, let’s dive into what the military needs.
The military is not a jobs program. It is not a healthcare program. It is not a social engineering laboratory. It is an organisation dedicated to defending the country against all enemies by breaking things and killing people. The battlefield does not care about trans rights, bigotry, equality or some other platitude du jour. The US military, being an all-volunteer military, has the luxury of recruiting people it believes can function on the battlefield.
The US military rejects people for all kinds of reasons: flat feet, asthma, diabetes, colour blindness. These health conditions are liabilities on the battlefield. People with gender dysphoria fall into a similar category. (See above, suicide and comorbidity). The US military is not obliged to take in people who can’t go to war and can’t fulfill its primary mission of breaking things and killing people.
There are two key questions recruiters need to ask about transgender recruits. How do you tell the difference between someone who develops gender dysphoria during service and wishes to get a sex change, and someone who joins the military with the express intention of mooching off the system to get free gender reassignment treatment? How do you tell whether a transgender recruit is suicidal, or will develop suicidal thoughts later in his career?
You can’t. Not with full confidence, not in this political climate. Easiest way to prevent problems? Don’t let transsexuals in.
Dollars and Sense
It’s been claimed that the military spends 5 times more on Viagra than it will on transgender services. Thus, the ‘reasoning’ goes, if the military can afford to spend $84.24 million on erectile dysfunction medicines, it can spend a paltry $8.4 million on providing transgender services.
That is both true and false. Most of the spending goes to military retirees who would have earned the right to medical care. Less than 10 percent of active-duty troops have prescriptions for Type 5 inhibitors. And Type 5 inhibitors, including Viagra and Cialis, do more than just treat erectile dysfunction: they can prevent severe altitude sickness and treat heart and prostrate diseases, among others. These are potentially life-saving medicines. Transgender treatments are entirely elective.
Transgender troops are a tiny minority; in the US military the high end of the estimate is 0.13%. So, retirees plus 10% who are active duty troops consume $84 million on ED medicines while 0.13%of the military will require $8.4 million. Sex reassignment does nothing to enhance military effectiveness or restore health. It’s not fair for a tiny group of troops to consume a vastly disproportionate amount of funding on elective procedures.
And money isn’t the only cost.
Don’t worry: if you screw up, everyone behind you dies.
It takes between one and a half years to three years to complete gender reassignment surgery. The basic term of enlistment in the US military is four years. Why would the military want to bring on someone who would be nondeployable for such a long period of time?
Modern militaries invest hundreds of thousands of dollars and months or years into training someone to be a warfighter. It’s reasonable to expect that when that servicemember completes training, that individual will be ready to serve. Transgenders who seek sex reassignment will impose time and monetary costs above and beyond what is already sunk into their training. Why should the military accept them?
Further, training is not a one-off event. Training is a continuous evolution throughout a servicemember’s career. Personnel are continuously penciled in for specialist training in specific schools to gain the knowledge they need to carry out their duties.
Gender reassignment requires multiple surgeries and months-long recovery periods. Longer if the person develops medical complications. That person will be out of action for significant blocks of time. No school is going to change its training schedule just to accommodate some special snowflake, and some really special snowflakes are going to use their surgeries and recovery periods as excuses to skip out on onerous training.
Now, what’s going to happen if you have a medic who can’t confidently resuscitate a dying soldier, a maintenance tech who can’t correctly diagnose and fix a wonky jet engine, an officer who doesn’t have the right knowledge base for his station?
In war, you need as many trained personnel at the front as possible. If a transsexual servicemember fails to attain training, it will negatively affect unit readiness. It will take far longer for a transsexual who transitions in-service to attain a necessary competency level than someone who does not. Further, it is difficult enough to replace combat losses; replacing personnel who go for elective surgery will simply add greater burden to the system. There is no room for special snowflakes who won’t even be around for much of their enlistment period, much less contribute to the mission.
Biology and Its Discontents
MtF individuals are going to be stronger than biological females. FtM individuals are going to be significantly weaker than biological males. In my time, we had sex-segregated fitness tests. A woman who scored full points on a female test will fail the male test. Very, very few women are going to be able to perform at the level of a man, and gender reassignment is not going to artificially alter a person’s biology.
The military is an arduous career, and lives are in the balance. What happens if you can’t drag a casualty, sprint for dozens or hundreds of yards under fire, drop him off and go back to get more? He dies. What happens if you can’t reload the main gun of your tank fast enough? The tank is hit and your crew dies. What happens if you are so exhausted you load up the wrong weapons on a helicopter or take too long to load it correctly? The grunts who need air support downrange now will die.
In the military, the price of failure is death. All it takes is one weak link for everybody around him to die.
Now, let’s suppose transsexuals who require hormone replacement therapy are allowed into combat. When they deploy into the field, they will be cut off from modern civilisation. If the enemy destroys the supply convoy carrying their hormones, they are out of luck. If they can’t get resupplied in time, troops who need external sources of hormones will suffer poor health. Alternatively, if these transgender troops develop medical complications from hormonal therapy in the field, medics aren’t likely to be able to help them. These servicemembers must be evacuated to the rear or suffer intensely — and in either case, they will become combat ineffective.
Now, what happens when someone becomes combat ineffective?
Someone Else Shoulders the Burden
Whenever a servicemember is out of action, everybody else has to take up the slack. If a squad leader is nondeployable, you’ll have to get an underqualified corporal to step up and take over. If an officer in charge of a specialist function is out of action, the unit’s senior NCO will have to wear two hats. There is no guarantee that the junior personnel will have the training and experience to properly execute his new duties, and the battlefield is an unforgiving teacher.
This creates stress and inefficiency that no one needs. The troops will tolerate it if someone is down due to severe illness or injury. But if it’s for an elective surgery? Rightly or wrongly, they will see it as shirking. This generates drama and conflict the unit doesn’t need. I have personally seen this before, and I can say it generates contempt for that individual. That contempt corrodes unit cohesion, and with it morale and operational efficiency.
There are other operational issues too. issue of personal equipment, housing, follow-up medical treatment as needed, training, and assignment of duties, among other things. The trans personnel will have to grapple with psychological and physiological issues as well, so everyone in the unit will need to undergo mandatory training to learn how to handle them, which takes away time and energy and money from training for war. Troops will need to figure out where transsexuals will sleep and shower, how to conduct urine drug tests without inviting charges of sexual harassment, and other such delicate matters. This creates inter-unit friction, reducing operational efficiency.
If someone is away for months on end, or if that person’s performance is compromised due to elective medical treatment, everybody else will have to take up his duties. They must take up more than their fair share of the burden, because someone, in their eyes, wants to be a special snowflake.
In a high-pressure, high-stakes organisation like the military, everybody must know if they can count on you to do your duty. If you can’t, they will have to pay the price. The military might as well recruit someone else who they can count on to be present for duty instead of recovering from elective surgery.
The Wages of Weakness