Service and sacrifice. That’s what our military has always been about. Any able-bodied US citizen who wants to sign up to defend our country surely ought to be welcomed with open arms and honored for their devotion.
Last week, the president’s latest shameful tweets declared his intention to roll back Obama’s executive order allowing transgendered service members to serve openly in our military. He asserted transgendered troops cause tremendous disruption and add burdensome costs that affect our military readiness and security. Others in congress, most of whom, of course have not served, have fallen back on the tired, old excuse “the military is no place for social experimentation.”
These modern day bigots act as if this faulty argument is something new.
On July 26th, 1948, President Harry Truman issued executive order 9981, which directed military leaders to end racial segregation and fully integrate our armed forces. The pushback was fierce, with only 26% of Americans in favor of the move. At the time, military leaders complained about troop readiness, unit cohesion, morale and yes, they said the military was no place for social experimentation.
A manpower shortage drove the military to recruit women during WWI and WWII. In 1942, the WAAC was established after much heated debate, allowing women to serve “with” the military, not “in.” Congressional and public debate raged over the inclusion of women. Bipartisan opposition was the rule. One commentator demanded to know: “Who then will do the cooking, the washing, the mending—the humble home tasks to which every woman has devoted herself?” A congressman called the bill for women’s military service “an attack on the sanctity of the home.” Despite exemplary service, it was not until 1978 that the Army eliminated the WAAC and fully added women to its ranks.
In 2011, the Clinton-era disastrous Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy was finally ended, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in our military. At the time, conservative groups and political leaders all insisted that unit cohesion and readiness would suffer. Once again, the military was no place for social experiments. Ditto when combat jobs were opened for women and opening the military to transgendered service last year. At every juncture, those opposed to each step toward full equality return to their standby line that somehow our military will cease to function if we remove barriers to service for another group of patriots.
The naysayers, sexists, and bigots have been proven wrong every time. The fact of the matter is that our military has always been exactly where we break down these barriers. Military integration has preceded the larger societal gains in equality, despite the claims to the contrary. Our military has become stronger with diversity and never once suffered from readiness.
Military leaders know this. That’s why so many military leaders have publicly stated that they will continue to support the transgendered soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coasties who proudly serve their country today. LGBT troops have served honorably in our military since the Revolution. Being LGBT isn’t a security risk, having to hide who you are is.
Our country needs the best and brightest patriots to serve in our military. Sexual orientation has no bearing on any troop’s ability to perform their assigned duties. The military is once again poised to move our country forward in the quest for full equality. The only thing we should be saying to transgendered troops is thank you for your service.