DOD weighs in on Trump’s trans-ban-tweet

dodlogoIn a word, I’d say the interim policy is “reasonable”

So last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis came out with a four-point “interim guidance” on how Trump’s transgender “ban” would be implemented. In my opinion, as a nine year military veteran, the guidance strikes a balance between what the president decreed and honoring our service members who happen to be trans.

The guidance’s four points begin with a direct statement from the defense department, which speaks volumes about how defense department considers and respects transgender service members. This is straight from the policy, quoted word-for-word:

“First and foremost, we will continue to treat every service member with dignity and respect,”

It then lists the four points:

  1. Accessions: The procedures dated April 28, 2010, which generally prohibit the accession of transgender individuals into the military services remain in effect, because existing or history of gender dysphoria — a state of unease or generalized dissatisfaction with life — or gender transition does not meet medical standards subject to the normal waiver process.
  2. Medical care and treatment: Service members who receive a gender dysphoria diagnosis from a military medical provider will be given treatment for the diagnosed medical condition. As directed by the memorandum, no new sex reassignment surgical procedures for military personnel will be permitted after March 22, 2018, except as necessary to protect the health of an individual who has already begun a course of treatment to reassign his or her gender.
  3. In-service transition for transgender service members: The policies and procedures in DoDI I300.28 dated July 1, 2016, remain in effect until the defense secretary puts into effect DoD’s final guidance.
  4. Separation and retention of transgender service members: Service members who have completed their gender transition process, and whose gender marker has been changed in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System will continue to serve in their preferred gender while the interim guidance is in effect.

Now, I’ve learned, and heard it said, that a policy is a good one if both sides leave the negotiations table unhappy. This means both sides had to “give” in order to reach a compromise. It should be noted that these four points are a perfect example of that.

For one, it offers a reasonable rationale for not allowing transgender people suffering from “gender dysphoria” to enter into the service. There are of course, gradations of what gender dysphoria looks like or how it is experienced. I do understand many markers of gender dysphoria are exacerbated by an intolerant society. In many cases, a person suffering from gender dysphoria is not in a condition to whether battlefield conditions or the stress of being in the military. The same is true for other mental issues, including depression or schizophrenia example.

There are policies in place in the DOD to screen out people suffering from all kinds of  conditions. These policies are not an indictment of individuals. The DOD is not saying a schizophrenic, or a person without a high school diploma for that matter, is a bad person, for example, or morally unworthy, so he can’t serve. I think the same would be the case for a transgender person.

This would be a great test of this new policy —-> if a person already has had their GCS and can show he or she or they do not suffer from gender dysphoria, can they then serve? It seems, according to this interim policy, that there will be room for these kinds of people to serve with no problem. It is a critical distinction that will have to be tested in real life.

For example, a potential recruit who is transgender would have to test whether what I’m saying here would work. I think it might.

I’ve written the DOD the question. Here’s what I wrote:

I have a question about the interim guidance on transgender people in the military. I’ve read the interim guidance news release. I’m a former Marine (9 years 1st MarDiv).

So let’s say a transgender person shows up at the recruiting station. They already have had their surgeries and possess a medical document attesting a clean bill of health vis-a-vis “gender dysphoria.” All other factors being equal, can that person join the service of their choosing presuming they are otherwise qualified?

I’m eager to see how they respond.

The second guideline relates to all this. It seems a bit contradictory when the military will gladly, for example, pay for someone to go to college. Such an expense is high in many

Defense Secretary James Mattis


Service members who become higher-educated are better service members. Can’t the same thing be said for providing GCS surgeries? I think they are comparable in price. And it could be argued that both not having a higher education and requiring GCS are pre-existing conditions. But I can also see the other argument here.

The good news of the second guidance point is the DOD isn’t cutting off current service members who are in the midst of transition. Such military personnel have until 2018, and, if the procedure is needed for life-threatening reasons, it can still be performed after that.

I’ll skip point three because it preserves the status quo.

Which brings me to point four. The interim guidance allows existing trans service members to continue to serve – for now – once they have “completed” their transition. I know, “transition” lasts a lifetime. But in the world of policy making, more distinct definitions must be drawn to come to agreement.

Intrestingly, the guidance also allows existing qualified transgender service members to reenlist if they desire. That’s a plus.

Then there’s this:

As directed by the memorandum, no action may be taken to involuntarily separate or discharge an otherwise qualified service member solely on the basis of a gender dysphoria diagnosis or transgender status. Transgender service members are subject to the same standards as any other service member of the same gender: They may be separated or discharged under existing bases and processes, but not on the basis of a gender dysphoria diagnosis or transgender status.

This is the coolest part of the directive. It prohibits any current service member being involuntarily discharged from the military because of their status. I think that’s great. It’s nod to honoring those currently serving.

You can read the press release here.

I’m eager to hear what you think. I’m not suggesting my view is the right one. It is one though that comes from seeing the positive side. If you do respond, please be prepared to elaborate on your statements. I prefer a dialogue, not drive-byes.

When poll numbers tell us nothing

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In the wake of Trump’s momentous tweet last month, those with an anti-transgender agenda pointed to polls demonstrating that Americans agree with the president’s claim that the military would be better off without transgender people serving in it.

Those poll NUMBERS indeed seem to support that statement. One poll conducted in late June showed that 31 percent of Americans said it was bad for the military to have transgender people serving. Only 21 percent said it was good and 38 percent said they had no idea.

Another poll, much more widely, shared said 44 percent of “likely voters” agreed with Trump’s tweet, while 45 percent disagree, showing the country pretty evenly split.

Let’s go back to college and talk about polling and survey methods. If you recall, your professor harped on question formation. How you formulate your question means everything in survey research.  The questions you ask, if they aren’t considered thoughtfully, will result in your survey measuring the wrong opinion.

Let’s go back and look at those polls cited above. The first one asked:

“The U.S. Department of Defense now allows transgender people, those who identify with and want to live as the opposite sex, to serve openly in the military. Is this decision good for the military, bad for the military or does it have no impact?”

The majority of Americans have no educated opinion on this matter! How on earth does the average American know anything about this? They don’t! it’s the wrong question because people’s opinion on this matter is irrelevant: they aren’t qualified to have an opinion.

The other poll asked survey respondents to “agree”, “disagree” or select “undecided” to the following statement, which you should recognize because it’s what Trump tweeted:

“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

Now this is a more “valid” question because anyone can have an opinion about what someone says or does. A person needs no qualifications to judge this. But this is still not the right question! Who cares if people agree with the president? This is not a presidential issue, it’s a policy issue. You have to ask the right question.

On July 26 Reuters released polling results which tell a completely different story. Reuter’s poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe transgender people should be in the military. How could this poll show such an overwhelming majority of people supporting transgender service people when the other two did not?

It asked a different question:

“Transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military.”

Only 27 percent of people responded “they should not be allowed” and the rest of respondents didn’t know how to answer the question. That latter group is likely more qualified to have that opinion because most people in America don’t know what it’s like to serve in the military because they haven’t served themselves.

It’s interesting how numbers can always be used to argue for a specific agenda. That’s why it’s so important to look beyond the numbers. For clues always exist which clarify just what the numbers are saying. In this case, what they’re saying is: you gotta ask the right question.