Military readiness and equality

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. lgbt-veteran

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.





  1. Well said, L.M. And thank you for including the history of discrimination in the U.S. armed forces. I hope the anti-transgender order is never formalized and the directive to continue treating everyone with respect remains the law and the expected behavior.

    Renee Bess,
    Whose two grand-fathers, Pvts. Mason and Bess, served in the then segregated U.S. Army during WWI, and whose Dad, Capt. Thomas Bess, served in the still segregated Army during WWII

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  2. I appreciate your thoughtful remarks on this matter. One slight correction – the WAAC was renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) in July 1943 and was then authorized as a branch of the US Army rather than an auxiliary group. The WAC received the same rank insignia and pay as men later that September and received the same pay allowances and deductions as men in late October. They were also the first women officers in the army allowed to wear officer’s insignia; the Army Nursing Corps didn’t receive permission to do so until 1944. (I did quite a bit of research on this group for my debut novel, Basic Training of the Heart.) But thank you again for the point you make about what our country needs and should be doing at the critical time in our history.

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    • Thanks, Jaycie. This was not intended as a full history of the WAC, only to illustrate the beginnings of each group’s struggles for equality. I took the facts on the 1978 date of full inclusion into the Army, eliminating the WAC designation and separate distinction from the National Army Museum’s website. It’s a very informative site, fascinating to see how many iterations women’s service in particular has gone through. Thanks for reading. Best of luck with the novel! I’ll check it out.


      • Absolutely, and you did a fine job on that. Your point went beyond my comment, which was as it should be, given today’s news. I mainly wanted to point out that the change from WAAC to WAC was significant, in that WACs received the same pay, rank, and benefits as male soldiers. As your referenced site says, “This was a remarkable advancement, especially considering that women in private industry on average earned only eighty percent of the salary of their male counterparts even in the year 2000.” (I bookmarked that site for later. It looks great. Thanks!) I appreciate the nod to the novel, too. My second one in the series comes out in October.

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  3. Well said, Lynette Mae, and thanks for the history lesson! This pronouncement by the T-man was so obviously meant to distract from the failure of wealthcare and ongoing investigations into the administration. Does anyone honestly believe T-man gives a hoot whether trans people serve in the military or not? As Republicans have nothing to offer anyone other than the very wealthy, they turn to taking away the rights of women and LGBT individuals to rally their radical religious right wing base. It is sickening that one of the most vulnerable minorities, already experiencing intense discrimination and high levels of hate crime attacks, is being used as a pawn in the political games of Republicans like our president.

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    • Agreed. I believe the whiner in chief only seeks a new target with each new day. He’s the classic bully who thinks his self-worth is shown by bashing others. I believe transgender troops will remain valuable members of our military and our armed forces will benefit by their skills and patriotism.

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