The Hands Across the Aisle Coalition (HATAC) responds to President Trump’s Twitter proclamation on transgender military service.
On July 26, in a series of tweets, Donald Trump declared that “transgender” members of the military would be banned from serving in any capacity. As a politically and socially diverse group of women fighting for the rights of women and girls, the Hands Across the Aisle Coalition supports sex-segregated spaces for the protection of women, including separation of male and female service members where appropriate, regardless of their self-declared “gender identity.”
At the same time, we have serious questions and concerns about this pronouncement.
Who is “transgender”? No one, including the prior administration, has been able to define “transgender” or “gender identity” without producing a circular definition and without relying on pernicious sex stereotypes. Does one demonstrate transgender status through simple declaration, as under the Obama administration’s policies? A ban on the basis of self-declaration would be unworkable. Does one qualify as transgender only by taking cross-sex hormones, or by surgically altering their genitals? A ban on that basis would be arbitrary, because many who self-identify as transgender (or “nonbinary” gender or a multitude of similar variations) do neither.
The fact remains that, regardless how any person feels about clothing fashions or preferred pastimes, no person can be born in the wrong body. A woman is an adult human female, regardless of how well her personality characteristics match with current social stereotypes about what is “feminine,” “masculine,” or variations in between. A man is an adult human male, and whatever brain he has is a male brain by definition, regardless of whether it shares certain characteristics with the brains of females.
Who would be served by this ban? Women in this coalition have widely varying views toward military policy, but we all agree on a few things: First, that women who do serve in the military have a right to safety from sexual assault and rape, and that sex segregation of the spaces where they’re most vulnerable to assault and rape is a human right to which women are entitled. Second, that the military provides jobs and financial benefits to service members, and therefore restrictions on service must be relevant, rational, and fair.
There are many medical conditions that bar a person from serving in the military because the condition or the medical care would interfere with performance of the job. As long as specific health conditions or surgical treatments are cause for exclusion, there is no reason to designate any broad social category of people as automatically unfit for duty without the same chance to pass a physical examination as other candidates for service. Mastectomies or hysterectomies, for instance, may qualify a member of the armed forces for partial disability status, but it would clearly be unreasonable to ban everyone who might someday undergo such a procedure on the basis of that theoretical need.
So the proclamation is stunningly broad. It declares that an undefined class of “transgender” people would be banned from serving “in any capacity.” Men and women who identify as transgender have, for any number of reasons, rejected the inescapable factual reality of their natal sex in favor of some other “gender identity.” These individuals may hold unusual beliefs about the nature of sex and gender, but unless there is a medically-relevant issue that applies to job performance, there is no reason to deny them employment with the U.S. military.
Moreover, we cannot find any evidence that Trump’s announcement of a transgender military ban was undertaken with an intent to protect the safety and dignity of women. Indeed, given that rape in the military remains a serious unaddressed problem, and that it is overwhelmingly men who perpetrate, regardless the sex of the victim, we doubt that this policy is a sign that the administration is taking women’s needs seriously.
Why was this policy announced now? Mainstream media and liberal feminists currently refuse to hear any arguments critical of the gender identity juggernaut, and women who question this ideology are branded with slurs, threatened with violence, and made to feel vulnerable about their jobs and friendships. This threatening atmosphere has helped to produce an environment in which men and women of all political stripes feel perfectly comfortable mocking women’s concerns for their safety and dignity, and making tasteless jokes about how funny it is that women fear male sexual assault and voyeurism. Women are branded as bigots while their rights are stripped away in order to provide emotional fulfillment for men who think they are women, while the emotional cost to women of being told to share group shower and sleeping facilities with men is dismissed without consideration.
In this atmosphere, it is clear that President Trump’s Twitter transgender military ban has galvanized hostility towards women who question and object to gender identity ideology, making it all the more difficult for us to continue pressing for our safety and privacy rights.
So while we agree that this issue needs further study, we fear that the chaotic manner in which this policy inclination was announced will only sharpen opposition to women-only spaces and hurt our interests in the long run.