SecDef Makes Ambiguous Statement on Transgender Service

Newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter held a townhall type “troop event” in Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. During the question and answer session, transcribed on the DoD website, a US Navy Lieutenant Commander asked Secretary Carter about his

…thoughts on transgender service members serving in an austere environment like this in Kandahar?

Given the pressing world events the Secretary of Defense for the United States could address, it was a somewhat surprising question.  Secretary Carter gave what could best be described as an “ambiguous” answer, first saying he hasn’t looked at it much, then saying he’s “open-minded,” but also returning to the standard of “suitability for service:” 

It’s not something I’ve studied a lot since I became secretary of defense. But I come at this kind of question from a fundamental starting point, which is that we want to make our conditions and experience of service as attractive as possible to our best people in our country.

And I’m very open-minded about — otherwise about what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That’s the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members?

And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.

“Suitability for service” is, of course, the very reason males who choose to identify as females, or vice versa, are not currently permitted to serve in the US military. (Even former military transgenders concede there are suitability issues.)

For Ashley Broadway, president of the American Military Partner Association, this was tantamount to endorsement:

While we applaud Secretary Carter for being ‘open-minded’ on this issue, we urge him to take action that will lead to ending this ban that continues to harm our transgender service members and their families.

To be accurate, there is no public evidence to support the claim the military’s prohibition on transgender service “harm[s]” any individuals or families. It only “harm[s] our transgender service members” to the extent any service member is harmed when they choose to be in the military while policies prohibit them from being so.

Broadway’s assessment of Secretary Carter’s statement may be overly optimistic, but as noted before, in the end it is likely a foregone conclusion.  Secretary Carter’s nuance seems to be more in the delivery than the message.  For their part, Broadway’s AMPA has been pounding the drum consistently, as when they fed homosexual media sources sound bites in articles highlighting Secretary Carter’s new Chief of Staff, former Acting Secretary of the Air Force — and openly homosexual — Eric Fanning.

This “slippery slope” was predicted years ago, prior to the repeal of DADT, by religious leaders and conservatives alike — and they were almost summarily dismissed.  Ultimately, if the US military cannot demand a moral standard for its troops when it comes to their conduct — which was the rallying cry behind the repeal of the policy and law known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — then it doesn’t matter whether a man wants to have sex with a man, or if a man who thinks he’s a woman wants to do whatever-it-is.  The only “issues” are pragmatic, like what uniform a male wears if he wants to be a woman, for example.

While some advocates may dismiss such issues by declaring US troops can act like professionals and adults…  How long was it, exactly, between the first woman boarding a submarine and the US Navy’s first submarine sex scandal…?

For the religiously-minded, this is an understandably uncomfortable situation. (Not the sexuality part, though the means in which people’s sex lives have been thrust into the public sphere (while religion has been shoved out of it) is somewhat uncomfortable.)  In reality, the more difficult situation is living for truth in an increasingly situational and relativistic moral world, one that is present in both the military and the society from which it is drawn.

There is truth — that which is real, regardless of how one feels, or whether one believes it or not.

Hold fast to that which you know.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
                                                                                   – John 14:6

Also raised at USA Today, via Stars and Stripes.