24 July 2013

A Band Of (Trans) Brothers--And Sisters

While the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" has been applauded, mostly for the right reasons, transgenders are still not allowed to be uniformed members of the Armed Forces.  

Meanwhile, civilian employees of the Armed Forces are allowed to transition if they are already employees.  What's not widely known is that Amanda Simpson, whom President Obama appointed as the Senior Technical Advisor to the Commerce Department shortly after he was elected to his first term, is a civilian military employee.  She had transitioned years before her appointment to that post.

Another civilian employee, not nearly as well-known, is in the process of transitioning.  However, that employee also happens to be an Army Reserve sergeant. 

But there's another twist that few anticipated:  As a civilian employee, this person is male.  However, for Army drills and physicals, it's necessary to bring out "whatever I can muster that's feminine".   So, while his civilian colleagues relate to him as the man he is, he must--as he admits--lie to his fellow soldiers.   

Now, some might say that he should be content with being a civilian military employee.  However, he says, "My father was a soldier.  I wanted to come home in a uniform like him".  He was able to do that after a deployment to Iraq.  While "coming home in a uniform" (Thankfully, it wasn't a body bag!) fulfilled one dream, it left him with the yearnings of another:  He realized he had to "come out" and transition.

He hopes that one day soon the Armed Forces' ban against transgenders will be lifted.  In the meantime, he says, he has a network of about 300 female-to-male transgenders who are a "band of brothers" supporting each other "in a battle nobody knows we're fighting".

While I don't generally encourage young people to join the military unless they, well, want to be in the military (and aren't enlisting merely to "pay for school", learn a trade, "see the world", please members of their families and communities or fulfill some vague notion like "serving my country"), and wouldn't join the military even if I could, I think the ban against trans people is absurd.  After all, the traits that make a person good soldiers, sailors, flyers or officers don't change as a person transitions from one gender to another. A male-to-female might lose some physical strength, but--let me tell you--you've got to be pretty damned tough to make the transition.  Also, while a certain amount of stamina is necessary, today's military doesn't depend as much on brute strength as the forces of old.  And, if someone could hack the physical training and the rigors of combat as a "woman", I don't see why he couldn't as a man.

Most important of all, though, is something the female-to-male civilian employee/reservist mentioned:  integrity.  In battle, or in any other stressful situation, people who are fighting or simply working together toward the same goal will not succeed unless they can trust one another.  I should think that someone who is completely honest about him or her self is more likely to deserve and gain the trust of the men and women by his or her side, or under his or her command.

No comments: