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Trump and the Politics of Transgender Military Service

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President Donald Trump announced Wednesday, July 26, 2017 that he plans to ban transgender individuals from serving "in any capacity" in the US armed forces.

It is no coincidence that President Trump announced his total ban on transgender individuals serving in the US Military in “any capacity” the day after the GOP Senate refused to repeal Obamacare.  As political distractions go, it was a good one.  As public policy goes, it is not a good one.

As a rule, policies that prohibit “any” or “every” usually don’t work well.

I’m not a transgender individual, nor am I an “advocate” for or against them in any fashion.  If an individual wants to change his or her gender, that’s between the person, his or her family, and his or her physician.  It’s America, be all you can be.

The question presented here is about transgender service in the military.  The arguments and hysteria, as usual, are over-wrought.  No one has a right to serve in the military.  Likewise, the military is not a place for social experimentation.  The military is supposed to exist to bring our most talented warriors, and all the support apparatus its members need to do their respective jobs, together for the singular job of protecting the republic.  That’s it.  It’s a serious job, and one America wants done right.

I never served in the military.  My dad helped liberate the world as a Marine in World War II and two of my brothers served as Marines in the 70’s and 80’s.  I can’t tell you I know what it is like to serve, but I certainly lived with people who served and made me quite aware of the sacrifice.

Here is what we know:  Transgender people currently serve.  The President has provided no evidence, of any kind, that those currently serving are a detriment to the mission.  He makes that argument that our military ought not be paying for the expense of transition.  I get that.  Of course, the expense of transition for every transgender member is likely no more than the loss of single airplane.

As a lawyer, my principle job is to analyze and assess the strength and logic of arguments.  The notion that the first place to attack the waste in military spending is transgender surgery and hormone therapy strikes me as weak. In the grand scheme of a US Military budget of 582.7 billion dollars for 2016, it is not the transgender volunteer soldier who is running up costs.

Still, advocates for transgender service have launched the hysteria missile, which doesn’t strengthen their arguments.  No, people don’t have a right to serve.  Many may have a desire, and many may feel a calling to serve.  I respect that.  However, service should be based on our military needs, and the skills that a prospective recruit brings to a job function … irrespective of any label.  That’s as American as it gets.  We want, need, and require the best.

Radical as this may seem to some, the best won’t always be straight white, heterosexual males.

If you need someone to take a hill and lead a platoon to do so … I am not your soldier.  You don’t want me, and I don’t want me … meaning … I want someone better than me.  You know what, as a conservative, patriotic, American, I want the best soldier to do that.  I don’t care about his or her religion … gender, orientation, color, creed, or size.  I want my professional military to choose the best.

Why would we ever want anything else from those who serve?

We simply cannot say, with certainty, that the best at all the many jobs the military has, from intel to IT, and across our battlefield will never be a transgender soldier.  That’s why the notion of the total ban fails.  We know for example, that one retired Navy Seal transitioned from what we might consider the quintessential manly super warrior … to a woman.  Do I get why he did so? No.  I don’t.  But the individual served our country with great distinction.  This means it is possible others like this individual exist.

Is it a legitimate question to wonder aloud if a soldier who is currently serving and desires to transition can do so and still properly serve his or her functions?  You bet.  And, for transgender advocates to suggest that an analysis and decision to discharge such a person is “bias” is equally weak.  One can easily imagine why and how the choice to transition might hurt job function, mission, and unit efficiency.

Our US Military cannot run on the seductive and simplistic notions of “equality” and “rights” alone.

The principle requirement for service to and defense of our country is the ability to do one’s job better than anyone else.  When you can’t do that job, for whatever reason, no matter your color, creed, size, gender, or orientation, the military should discharge you.  Likewise, the military ought not be making artificial prohibitions to service based on any of these criteria.  We want to attract the best, choose from the best, and train and maintain the best.

Sometimes, the best comes from sources that our biases and perceptions never imagine.

I want our military to be great enough to accept the best in any form.  I demand that it be strong enough to reject those who are not the best, no matter one’s various other cries for equality and fairness.

The President fancies himself a successful business man … these are concepts he should understand. Right now, his policy pronouncement smells like pure politics … which is something our military “almost never” needs.

Richard Kelsey

Author: Richard Kelsey

Richard Kelsey is the Editor-in-Chief of Committed Conservative.

He is an Attorney, a former Assistant Law School Dean, Law Professor, and Virginia state court law clerk. Dean Kelsey was also the CEO of a technology company specializing in combating cyber-fraud. He is a regular commentator on legal and political issues in print, radio and on TV.

Rich graduated from George Mason law school, clerked for the Arlington Circuit Court, and later joined an AM LAW top 10 law firm practicing commercial litigation. He left the firm to be counsel and CEO to a consulting firm, rising to CEO of Turiss, LLC, a technology firm specializing in computer forensics, digital investigations, and fighting cyber-fraud through civil intel services and new technologies. Upon the sale of the company, Kelsey returned to Mason Law, where in the years before his return, he both taught at the school and served as President of the Law Alumni Association. Kelsey was the Assistant Dean for Management and Planning.

At Mason, Dean Kelsey taught legal writing and analysis and an advanced litigation seminar. In 2014 he was elected by the graduating class as the faculty speaker at their graduation. While serving the former George Mason Law, Kelsey conceived of, planned, and brought to fruition Mason’s Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property, known as CPIP.

Rich has appeared on radio, TV, and in print hundreds of times as both a legal expert and political and legal commentator. He provided the legal analysis for all stages of the Bob McDonnell trial and appeal for numerous outlets including NPR and WMAL. He writes on occasion for the American Spectator and CNSNews.com. He returned to private practice in September of 2016, and he is working on a book/expose on legal education.

In his free time, Rich is part of the baseball mafia of Northern Virginia, serving on numerous boards and as a little league and travel baseball coach.

Rich has many opinions, and they are his own. His Twitter handle is @richkelsey.

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