It’s insane to say that it does. There is nothing – not one thing – the military needs to have transgender people for. Every job in the military can be done by the 99.7% of people who do not feel they are transgender.
“Need” is something that ultimately must outweigh cost, or downside, if it is to be invoked for the purposes of public policy. And in the case of transgender people in the military, it simply doesn’t.
This is clear from the level at which it creates problems to have transgender people in the military. The Washington Post inadvertently exposes how clear it is with its account from Sunday of an issue that arose for one soldier, a transgender man, who last year was reportedly required to get himself a female dress uniform:
In one case, Army Sgt. Shane Ortega, a transgender man, was required last summer to go to a uniform shop where he was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii with a senior enlisted soldier to obtain a female dress uniform in order to meet Army officials at the Pentagon to discuss transgender policy concerns, according to Ortega and Army officials.
Ortega said the incident showed “a real lack of leadership and a lack of human compassion” and demonstrated the level of discrimination and ignorance in the military about transgender people is huge.
“I had to go through this experience at a public time … and try on this uniform in a public space and basically be humiliated because everyone in the space is going to go, ‘Why is this male soldier trying on this female uniform?’ ”
So why was Ortega being required to do this? (Emphasis added.)
Wayne Hall, an Army spokesman, said that service policy dictated that “the appropriate uniform” for Ortega was the female dress uniform because he enlisted as a woman in 2009. Ortega and Hall said that the requirement was eventually dropped and that Ortega was allowed to wear a more unisex camouflage utility uniform to the meeting.
The absurdity here is the idea that there’s something mean-spirited and anti-transgender about the military’s longstanding, universal practice of prescribing a uniform for an event, and expecting everyone to show up in it. If Ortega enlisted as a woman, there is nothing unfair or insensitive about expecting Ortega to wear a woman’s dress uniform.
No, the military doesn’t have a comprehensive policy on “transgenders in transition.” But there is no benefit whatsoever to the mission of the military in having such a policy. It buys the military absolutely nothing, while yet courting problems that don’t arise with other service members.
There’s not one of us whose creative patriotic fabulousness is so transcendent that the military ought to buy into thousands of man-hours’ worth of additional problems for the chain of command, just so it can enlist us. The right answer in the “wear Dress Blues to the meeting” situation is “Shut up and wear Dress Blues to the meeting.”
That’s the standard that literally everyone can meet without creating extra, unnecessary problems for the military. There’s no getting around it: you have to be creating extra problems for yourself, as well as the military, to be offended by wearing the uniform that corresponds to your biological sex. Society should be kind to you if you feel like you can’t help taking offense in that situation – but society should not think it’s a good idea to make the public institutions take your problem on just so they can adapt to it.
The military doesn’t exist for the soldiers’ convenience but for the American people’s national defense. And when the Army is actually having to sit around and think about whether some soldiers’ feelings will be hurt if they’re told they must show up at a meeting in Dress Blues, the Army isn’t doing its job for the American people. It’s wasting its precious, taxpayer-funded time worrying about unnecessary problems.
What the Washington Post story clarifies – again, it appears, inadvertently – is that it does create a host of extra problems to enlist transgender people. WaPo’s subtext notwithstanding, the Army’s expectation that it should be able to prescribe uniforms without soldiers getting their noses out of joint is not what’s silly here. What’s silly is the implication that a better-ordered Army would embrace worrying about what its soldiers want to wear, depending on their life progress with gender.