After reading Brian Baker’s commentary “Good policy: No transgenders in the military” published in the Aug. 4 issue of The Signal, I believe there are several aspects of his column that need clarification.
Most glaring is the assertion that “The job of the military is to kill people and blow up things.” I know that when my husband enlisted in the Air Force during the Vietnam War, he did so with the intention of preserving and protecting our country, a concept which aligns well with Joint Publication 1: “Doctrine for the Armed Forces.” This document states, “Military power is integrated with other instruments of national power to advance and defend U.S. values, interests and objectives.”
From this, I conclude that our military’s purpose includes far more than “killing people and blowing up things.” Mr. Baker neglects to mention the many humanitarian programs with which our military is involved, such as supply drops to war-torn areas and assistance with relief efforts following natural disasters throughout the world.
Mr. Baker inquires, “But, by their very nature, what are trangendered?” I can say that transgender (not “transgendered”) people are human beings just like Mr. Baker and myself. They are different from us in that, while I identify emotionally and physically as female, consistent with the gender assigned to me at birth, and I assume that Mr. Baker identifies emotionally and physically as male, consistent with the gender assigned to him at birth, transgender individuals do not identify emotionally or physically with the genders they are assigned at birth.
This is neither a choice nor a decision, nor is it a new phenomenon. Transgender persons have been documented in many indigenous, Eastern, and Western cultures from antiquity until the present day.
Mr. Baker goes on to say, “they are certainly not mainstream in any way. At around .06 percent of U.S. adults, according to the Williams Institute, they are most assuredly different from the average soldier, if not outright ‘special.’”
I really don’t know where to begin with these comments other than to ask Mr. Baker a few questions. Presuming that such a small percentage of individuals is transgender, does the size of a group exclude that group from being part of the mainstream of our society?
Did the Williams Institute check with the American Psychological Association to learn that “At this time, it is difficult to accurately estimate the number of transgender people because there are no population studies that accurately and completely account for the range of gender identity and gender expression.”
And how are transgender service members “most assuredly” different from the average soldier? I am sure that retired Navy Seal Kristin Beck did not differ from other Navy Seals when she worked at full capacity as a chief petty officer who earned a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal.
And don’t you agree that the only way we can consider her “special” is to recognize that, unlike her colleagues, she was forced to hide who she truly was during her 20-year tenure of service to our country?
Mr. Baker continues, “Further, ‘transgendered’ is indisputably a psychological condition or disorder according to theIcd10data.com.” While it is true that the International Classification of Diseases states that people who experience intense, persistent inconclusiveness about their gender identity can be given a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the American Psychological Association states that the psychological issues transgender people experience may have far less to do with the gender identification than the consequences of a lack of acceptance by society, direct or indirect experiences with discrimination, and outright physical assault. The APA also states that the Icd10 Data is considering revising its classification.
According to Mr. Baker, if “’trans’ people are serving as openly ‘trans,’ there’s absolutely no way that wouldn’t be disruptive.” Well, Mr. Baker, transgender military personnel have been serving openly for over a year now and I am not aware of any great disruptions that have been caused as a result of this.
As a matter of fact, Time Magazine reported in its Aug. 1 edition that more than 50 retired generals and admirals from every branch of the service signed a letter condemning the ban of transgender troops. I guess they do not find it disruptive, either!
As further proof, a 2016 study from the RAND Corporation pointed out that 18 other countries – including Australia, Canada, Israel and the United Kingdom – allow transgender people to serve openly in the military with “little or no impact on unit cohesion, operational effectiveness or readiness.”
Finally, Mr. Baker compares transgender individuals with those having physical ailments such as asthma, epilepsy, blindness and Down syndrome, all conditions which disqualify people who have them from entering the military. Once again, he has not checked his facts.
Shortly after the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military was tweeted, the American Medical Association released the following statement: “There is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from military service. Transgender individuals are serving their country with honor, and they should be allowed to continue to do so. We should be honoring their service – not trying to end it.”
It is understandable that people may be confused about transgender issues in today’s world of misinformation. I would like to invite Mr. Baker and anyone else who is interested in learning more factual information on the topic to read “Becoming Nicole” by Amy Ellis Nutt. Once you have, I would welcome a conversation.
Peggy Stabile is a 38-year resident of Valencia and the founder of the Santa Clarita chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.