The armed forces deserve our respect. In certain matters, they may also deserve our sympathy. The US military had barely got used to having LGBT personnel in their straitlaced ranks, and now they face the question of transgenders. They give President Trump the willies and he wants to make a clean sweep. If his intentions are clearly understood, not only will the forces have to stop recruiting transgenders, but commanders will have to weed out those already in service. Prominent among them is Chelsea Manning, who had joined up as Bradley Manning, and siphoned off some very damaging material from military communications on a CD labelled “Lady Gaga”. In Trump’s eyes, transgenders like her must be the very worst.
Historically, the armed forces have been the world’s most heavily gendered institutions. Women had a hard time graduating from camp followers to the front ranks, and women combat pilots are still a tiny minority worldwide. Then, in 1994, the Clinton administration took a daring step forward with the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy in the US military, which ensured that closet homosexuals were not discriminated against. Finally, they were let out of the closet, and in 2016, transgenders were allowed to join the ranks.
Given Trump’s native inclinations, he would probably like to turn the clock back to please sections of his electorate, and the rest of America is outraged. Indeed, it’s a global question, since the forces of several prosperous nations have voted against gender discrimination in their armies, and the US is the most powerful of them. But we shouldn’t worry, because in time, technology will provide a fix. The time is near when wars will be fought like video games, and gender will be the least important qualification of a soldier.