Huckabee, who is a fan of reinstating the repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and has previously made ugly comments about trans people, probably isn’t interested in some of the more prosaic reasons a military should strive for open LGBTQ service: to live up to the core values of dignity, integrity, and respect; to reflect the diversity of the country it serves; to bring its long-outdated medical standards up to date; or to recognize that there is “no compelling medical reason for the ban,” according to a report from a commission co-chaired by former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. So let’s just assume that his main concern is that the armed services are prepared to kill people and break things.
Well, couldn’t they break a lot more things with a lot more soldiers? There are an estimated 15,500 trans troops currently in the military, and studies show that they could be serving a lot more effectively if they had access to proper health and medical care. And more would sign up if we let them: According to a recent report from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, transgender respondents are twice as likely as the rest of the population to enlist. Besides, it takes effort and resources to find and remove transgender soldiers, as a 2014 report by the Planning Commission on Transgender Military Service pointed out.
But perhaps the most convincing argument for open trans service is to be found beyond our borders. While all militaries are different, we can learn a lot from studying the successes and stumbles of other countries, as we did when researching the feasibility of welcoming gay, lesbian, and bisexual troops. Eighteen countries—including Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, and Norway—currently allow transgender troops to serve with no negative repercussions. The takeaway? “The pattern is that inclusion does not harm the military, and in fact, makes it better,” says Aaron Belkin, who authored a 2001 report assessing the impact of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and later testified at the government hearing that overturned that ban.