Trans­gen­der de­ci­sion must fo­cus on com­bat readi­ness, not so­cial jus­tice

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - RICHARD HALPIN, AUSTIN DALE RITZEN, AUSTIN VEENA GONDHALEKAR, AUSTIN

A re­cent col­umn by Lisa L. Moore, a Univer­sity of Texas pro­fes­sor of gen­der and women’s stud­ies, and Paige Schilt, a UT learn­ing spe­cial­ist and au­thor of “Queer Rock Love,” is an un­con­vinc­ing at­tempt to le­git­imize ser­vice in our armed forces by trans­gen­der in­di­vid­u­als.

Even if I were a pro­po­nent of trans­gen­der mil­i­tary ser­vice, I would ask my­self, “couldn’t they have done bet­ter than this?” Their col­umn fea­tures eas­ily re­but­table half-truths and a com­plete lack of un­der­stand­ing or knowl­edge of mil­i­tary ser­vice. I do agree with their cri­tique of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who I didn’t vote for.

While the authors and I may share a dis­dain for the pres­i­dent, we are far apart on the sub­ject of trans­gen­der ser­vice in the armed forces. I agree with Trump. My opin­ion is based on 24 years of mil­i­tary ser­vice. I am a re­tired Ma­rine Viet­nam vet­eran. My old­est son is a ca­reer Ma­rine with four over­seas tours in the war on ter­ror. He is also the fifth con­sec­u­tive gen­er­a­tion of our fam­ily to serve over­seas dur­ing wartime. I think I have some cred­i­bil­ity and some skin in this game.

Moore and Schilt err when they write that Deb­o­rah Samp­son was trans­gen­der when she as­sumed a false iden­tity as Robert Shirtliff and served hon­or­ably in the Con­ti­nen­tal Army. They there­fore con­clude “gen­der vari­ant” peo­ple served as far back as the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion. How­ever, im­me­di­ately af­ter the war, 25-yearold Samp­son mar­ried Ben­jamin Gan­nett and the mar­riage re­sulted in three chil­dren.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to un­equiv­o­cally state as the authors do that Samp­son was trans­gen­der. Ei­ther way, her story is a good ex­am­ple of how the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” pol­icy adopted by Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton and re­scinded by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama might be worth an­other look.

The authors claim that “the Pen­tagon spends five times as much on Vi­a­gra as pro­vid­ing health care to trans­gen­der troops.” While likely true, it should be noted that over 90 per­cent of the erec­tile dys­func­tion meds pre­scribed are for ag­ing mil­i­tary re­tirees and ag­ing vet­er­ans ac­cess­ing VA health care.

Their ar­ti­cle ac­cu­rately cites a 2015 sur­vey by the Na­tional Coali­tion of Trans­gen­der Equal­ity that found “40 per­cent of trans-iden­ti­fied re­spon­dents had at­tempted sui­cide dur­ing their life­time — nearly nine times the at­tempted sui­cide rate in the U.S. pop­u­la­tion.” So, we should sign them up and give them a gun?

How can any­one le­git­i­mately be­lieve that en­list­ing into the armed forces peo­ple who at­tempt sui­cide at a rate nine times the rate of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion and giv­ing them an M-16, a tank, a fighter air­craft or ac­cess to a WMD is a good idea? Is not sui­cide al­ready an is­sue among vet­er­ans? As a com­bat sol­dier or Ma­rine know­ing that fact, would you feel con­fi­dent serv­ing with folks who are sub­stan­tially more in­clined to kill them­selves and maybe you, and not the en­emy?

The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are not in­tended to be in­stru­ments of so­cial change or so­cial jus­tice. They are in­tended to have the ca­pa­bil­ity of killing, or train­ing to kill, as many of the en­emy in the most ex­pe­di­tious man­ner pos­si­ble. The premise that “in­di­vid­ual rights” or “equal op­por­tu­nity” mat­ter in this de­bate is bo­gus. No one has a right to serve in the mil­i­tary. When serv­ing, in­di­vid­ual con­sti­tu­tional rights take a back seat to mil­i­tary readi­ness.

There is only one con­sid­er­a­tion when de­cid­ing this is­sue. All that mat­ters is: “Does this pol­icy en­hance or de­grade mil­i­tary readi­ness?” I main­tain it de­grades it.

Some will ar­gue that if you can qual­ify and meet the stan­dards, you should be al­lowed to serve. In a per­fect world, there’s some merit to that ar­gu­ment, but mil­i­tary ser­vice and com­bat are not the per­fect world. They are a world in which small aber­ra­tions or mis­takes caused by the lack of unit co­he­sive­ness or low morale cost lives.

One could ar­gue that a 60-year-old man who runs triathlons should be al­lowed to en­list in the Army. The mil­i­tary doesn’t ac­cept 60-year-olds be­cause, ex­cept for a few out­liers, most can’t make the grade to serve.

This is not a de­ci­sion that should be based on pol­i­tics. It is not a de­ci­sion that should be based on fair­ness. And it is not a de­ci­sion that should be based on the opin­ions of pro­fes­sors of women’s and gen­der stud­ies. It should be solely based on what op­tion en­hances — not de­grades — com­bat ca­pa­bil­ity.

We have a ro­bust Texas econ­omy. Thank a teacher. We have a work­force. Thank a teacher. We have a $10 bil­lion Eco­nomic Sta­bi­liza­tion Fund. Thank a teacher.

The Texas econ­omy teach­ers have helped cre­ate has made the ESF pos­si­ble. We have a covenant with Texas teach­ers: You work hard for low wages, six or seven days a week. You de­liver Tex­ans who can read, write and work hard. We prom­ise you a de­pend­able af­ford­able re­tire­ment and health care pro­gram. Now we have the means — which teach­ers have helped cre­ate — to meet our fis­cal prom­ises to them. Let’s come through and thank our teach­ers.

Oh, ad­di­tional good news: Our teach­ers will spend that re­tire­ment and health care money right back into our econ­omy. It’s a win-win-win! And our teach­ers won’t show up at the costly emer­gency room or die from mal­nour­ish­ment.

It has be­come ob­vi­ous since the last elec­tion cycle that we are be­ing “ruled,” not gov­erned, by the Repub­li­can Party here in Texas. There is lit­tle sem­blance of a demo­cratic process left in our state gov­ern­ment when it comes to the Se­nate.

Yes, Demo­cratic se­na­tors are “al­lowed” to sit in their seats and vote — but there has been lit­tle at­tempt to hear and un­der­stand their side of pro­posed Se­nate leg­is­la­tion. In­stead, we see a steam­roller ef­fect by those in con­trol of the Se­nate, which squashes any dis­sent.

Shame on you Lt. Gov. Dan Pa­trick, and shame on you Gov. Greg Ab­bott, for al­low­ing this to hap­pen.

Thank heaven we have less dem­a­goguery and more of a holis­tic view of the world out­side the Capi­tol doors in the Texas House. It ap­pears that Speaker Joe Straus and our elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives ac­tu­ally pre­fer to do the busi­ness of Texas in­stead of mak­ing our state a mock­ery of the demo­cratic process.

The phony con­cern of our Texas “lead­ers” about the dan­gers lurk­ing be­hind bath­room us­age by trans­gen­dered peo­ple must be re­pu­di­ated. Th­ese con­cerns are less about pri­vacy or safety and more about ig­no­rance, big­otry and bul­lies do­ing what they do best.

As a woman, I’m not threat­ened by — or con­cerned about — the oc­cu­pants of other stalls in women’s pub­lic re­strooms, nor cu­ri­ous about their plumbing or which po­si­tion, fix­ture or al­go­rithm they use to do the need­ful.

A per­son of any gen­der mind­ing their busi­ness be­hind a closed door has far more pri­vacy and poses far less dan­ger to oth­ers than those stand­ing in the open at a uri­nal with their pri­vates in hand. The lat­ter aren’t trans­gen­dered peo­ple.

ERIC GAY / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

San An­to­nio po­lice in­ves­ti­gate the scene where eight im­mi­grants were found dead in an over­heated trac­tor-trailer in a Wal­mart park­ing lot last month.

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