By Riley Dosh
West Point, Class of 2017
Since leaving the military in May, I have been enjoying not waking up before dawn with an ever-dreadful alarm on my phone. So much to my surprise when my phone woke me up yesterday morning with a call from the BBC. They wanted my reaction to a tweet that President Trump had sent out a short time earlier. What tweet? What would the old man be trying to pull at 8 am? In three unusually well-versed, and polite tweets, my former boss told the world that transgender individuals had no place in the profession of arms. So many questions rushed me, but most persistent was: “why?”
Despite its short length, this is a complex and multifaceted question – just like the kind I hated answering on tests. As the dust settled by the end of the first day, it seemed clear that no policy change would be coming in the short term. From every point of view, this is just the administration poking the Left with a stick and seeing it jump. However, that is no reassurance to the military service members who face a wave of prejudice, discrimination, and fear. It also appears as a massive distraction towards other issues that the administration is facing. But pivot or no, statements of this magnitude cannot go unchallenged. It is flat out irresponsible for our President to play with the careers and livelihood of so many service members.
Almost as startling has been the incredible support this has garnered. Talking heads have lambasted our military leaders and Secretary Mattis for allowing this liberal socialist plot to unfold. Do they truly believe that the greatest military in the world is incapable of adapting and overcoming? 18 allied countries, including Israel, Canada, and Great Britain allow transgender service without incident, and so far, we are the same.
While I fundamentally disagree with many of the conservative arguments, I know that many are not doing so out of malice, at least on the surface. There are legitimate issues that need to be discussed about the implementation of this policy, and that’s what this delay allows. But rational argument alone does not explain the vitriol disgust I hear in the voices attacking this policy. There is a hatred and a misunderstanding here.
When I came out as transgender at West Point, support for me was widespread among my peers and commanders. Naturally, a few remained silent. When news broke in early May, days before finals, that I would not be allowed to commission, anonymous social media (particular on the app Jodel) went ballistic – ranging from jokes about my genitals to heated flame wars about the transgender science. One thing became clear: the detractors did not want me in “their” Army, and they wanted me to pay back my service obligation. Cadets that fail out in their final two years owe the government time enlisted, or monetary recoupment that can go as high as $250,000. The later option would be grounds for a legal case, and I think that was well understood as most cadets did not bring it up.
So in my peer’s eyes, I should not serve, but I should serve. This blatant contradiction exists in all arguments against transgender service, and it can only come from one prejudice: that transgender individuals should not exist.
Taking a step back from the details, the concerns raised seem justifiable. Why should we allow people to serve when we know they might cost more? What about privacy, fitness standards, and deployability? These questions have answers and they are clearly written out in the policy. Critics that keep bringing these points up either have never read the policy never, encountered a serving transgender service member or are blatantly pushing their own facts. Often, it is all three.
I want to be clear: the President’s tweets have not changed a single bit of policy. Transgender Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen continue to serve with excellence, honor, and dignity as they have been doing so for decades; they are not swayed. Transphobia will eventually die out, even if it takes years or decades. Concerns about the policy are fundamentally rooted in a misunderstanding of what it means to be transgender. As one commentator said: “[transgender individuals] should be and are, second class citizens.” However, your discomfort with my existence is not a national policy argument.