Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Bridges, Walls, and Transgender Rights

with 8 comments

This past week was a very frustrating one in many senses, folks.

First, we had the “announcement” of a transgender ban from military service by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, via a Tweet. (Something the Joint Chiefs of Staff had no idea was coming, much less the ordinary rank and file.)

Next, we had utter chaos at the White House as one of the new staffers (a guy I won’t name) decided to go on a profane rant. And rather than be fired, as anyone else would’ve been from any job anywhere, this particular new staffer was more or less praised by the President. (Or at least excused by him.)

Look. I believe in building bridges, not walls. I think we need to learn more about each other, in order to become more compassionate, much less wiser, people. And trying to understand the other person’s point of view is essential, or you can’t get anything done in that regard.

But I don’t understand the President’s point of view at all, here.

Donald Trump, in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, talked about how he was for LGBTQ rights. And the T in that stands for “transgender.”

Granted, if you had to ask me to ask one person whether the sun was rising in the East and setting in the West, I would pick anyone instead of Donald Trump. (I might even pick my dog, Trouble. He’d not be able to answer me, but at least he’d look cute.)

Still. Since transgender soldiers were allowed to serve openly in the military, they’ve done a fine job. No one’s seemed to have any trouble with them. They’re soldiers, like anyone else. They do their jobs, like anyone else. And no one’s ever questioned the fact that the United States military contains some of the best trained fighters ever seen.

(And make no mistake about it: I fully expected this to be the case. A trans person is a person like anyone else. And trans soldiers want to serve their country like anyone else does, too; give them credit for that fact, Mr. President. Please?)

I would’ve rather seen a bridge built here, rather than the wall of Donald Trump’s Tweet. I’d rather Mr. Trump had spoken to the transgender soldier retired from Seal Team Six, who could’ve given Mr. Trump a very solid education on the entire subject. I’d rather Mr. Trump had spoken to any soldiers, including Senators Lindsay Graham and Joni Ernst, who would’ve told him that soldiers of any persuasion, creed, color, sexuality or gender preference are worthy of care and will do the professional, thorough job that soldiers of the U.S. military are known for.

I tried to say that myself on my little-used Twitter account, but I was immediately given short shrift by a few of Mr. Trump’s more rabid followers. They believe that Mr. Trump was right to do this, because supposedly being trans is a “mental disease.” Or that it really is too expensive to give trans soldiers the care they need, which is absurd considering the immense amount of the military’s budget. (Supposedly, the military spends more on Viagra for male soldiers’ impotence than they do on the care for their trans soldiers. I wouldn’t doubt that for a minute.)

I know, myself, that as a writer and as a human being, I want to know more about people who feel marginalized and misunderstood in order to give them hope that someday, they will feel completely accepted and fully understood. That’s why I wrote my book, CHANGING FACES, and it’s why I believe firmly that we need to build a bridge to the trans community, and learn more from them, rather than exclude them out of hand as if they don’t matter — or worse, pretend that they don’t exist.

The Deity must have a reason for people coming in all sorts, shapes, creeds, sexes, genders, and yes, even differing political philosophies like Mr. Trump’s. But I don’t understand why anyone needs to be obnoxious in spreading his or her own political philosophy, especially if he hasn’t studied the subject at all, as it appears Mr. Trump has not.

For someone who said he was for LGBTQ rights, Mr. Trump had a horrible week.

But the trans soldiers had a worse one. Because they realized, perhaps for the first time, that this President does not have their back. And that is a very sad, even shameful, thing.

8 Responses

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  1. Barb you mean the Navy SEAL Team Six hero Kristin Beck says she “defended for everyone” … Beck , who began transitioning to a woman “after retiring from duty”. There are quite a few physical defects that will keep a person from entering military service and under weight, over weight, diabetic, and uncorrectable eye-sight. Take the diabetic who has it under control. That takes continuous medical supplies something that can not be guaranteed in the service. To transition Often, the process can take three, four, five, or many more years. … Hormones do most of the work of transition, but they are not without risks. Something like this can not be carried by the US military.

    Thomas Monaghan

    July 29, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    • Yes, that’s exactly who I meant. I think talking with someone who’s served who is trans would be useful, even if you still do not change your mind.

      I know there are a number of conditions that do keep you out of the military if you are aware of it. If you aren’t, it can still wash you out later — witness Michael’s unusual type of arthritis, that took him out of his Naval service after he broke both legs in a training accident. (They found the arthritis in an X-ray while he was recovering. He was only eighteen.)

      Tom, all I can tell you is that if the concern is people needing hormones while serving, then say that explicitly, and talk with people who have served who are trans. (Like Ms. Beck.) Maybe there’s a way to allow people who aren’t taking hormones to keep them in the service, and use the skills they’ve acquired for the benefit of the US, rather than turning them out on their ear without even studying the matter at all.

      Barb Caffrey

      July 29, 2017 at 7:41 pm

      • Barb Beck didn’t trans until after he got out!!

        Thomas Monaghan

        July 29, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      • I know that, Tom. But the experience Ms. Beck had (while she was still Mr. Beck) still applies. And she knows exactly what it takes to be a good serviceperson…that’s why I said the President should’ve gone to talk with her, and some of the other openly trans people now serving (as there’s someone in the Coast Guard now transitioning openly from male to female, Tyler to Taylor…saw that in the Washington Post today), just to get the opposing POV.

        My main problem with this President is that he does not seem to appreciate any POV but his own. As a POTUS, you cannot do that or you will not be able to bring consensus to the country. And we aren’t a country that does well with “top-down” rule by fiat, for obvious reasons.

        Anyway, yes, I know that Ms. Beck was not outwardly female at the time of her service in the Navy SEALs.

        But I also know at least one person — so do you, I believe — who is male, but stuck in a female body, and _cannot_ transition due to medical issues. So it’s more important to be who you are in your head, than what you look like outwardly. (It’s just very, very difficult when your inward gender does not match, at all, your outward gender.)

        Anyway, I have sympathy for underdogs. I don’t think that’s a surprise to you. My point is that I would’ve liked very much to see some sort of consultation, any sort of consultation, before popping off in a Tweet and potentially endangering a number of already-serving people in the various branches of the Armed Services.

        Barb Caffrey

        July 29, 2017 at 9:21 pm

  2. Barb Obama never had the US military’s back!!

    Thomas Monaghan

    July 29, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    • I don’t think Obama fully understood what the military was supposed to do, to be honest. (Just my opinion.) But I don’t think that’s why he said that trans individuals should be allowed to serve openly _after_ a study showed other countries had had it work for them…Obama was a very measured, calm person, sometimes too measured and calm.

      Barb Caffrey

      July 29, 2017 at 9:17 pm

  3. Barb, have you seen Erin Palette’s posts about the subject?
    Really what it comes down to is a cost benefit analysis. If we put X amount of time, training, material and money into subject A are we a more lethal military than if we spend that same amount of time, training, material and money into subject B or subject C. The military isn’t the place for social experiments, it’s got too many other priorities. Deadly priorities. Let the civvies and the politicians debate about where so-and-so should be in society. The only two questions for the military should be Does this make it easier to destroy the enemy? and Does this make our troops safer when doing the former? Everything else should be shit canned.

    The military should be about doing those two things, not about politics. We’ve been dealing with politics interfering in the military at least since WWII, probably earlier. During Vietnam one of Chuck Yeager’s commanders insisted that only those aircraft scheduled for maintenance would get repaired, irregardless of actual needs of the unit. Yeager’s work around was to have the tail numbers repainted so that aircraft that actually needed fixing got repaired. The rule was idiotic and put lives in jeopardy. And the fix, though fairly simple, needlessly used up time and resources that could have otherwise been utilized elsewhere. But since it made someone’s resume look good to those even higher up it was put in place.

    If diabetics are rejected for the need of insulin when it’s quite readily available in the civilian world, why would it make sense to accept people needing hormone treatments and multiple surgeries? Why spend the time, money and material training someone who can never be forward deployed?


    July 30, 2017 at 1:04 am

    • Kamas, for the most part I agree with you. The thing with trans people is, they don’t always realize what’s going on with them, even now when it’s a “popular” issue. (Or at least an issue that’s been discussed in the news, mostly because of personalities like Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner.)

      So, if you’re in the military, and you realize your inward gender does not match your outward one, but you aren’t causing any trouble to anyone and just want to serve, why should you be forced to leave?

      I will take a look at the post you cited, though, as it sounds interesting.

      Thanks, Kamas, for your reasoned and thoughtful comment.

      Barb Caffrey

      July 30, 2017 at 2:51 pm

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