Joe Biden ran a campaign built on a vow to “return to norms.” The latest policy announcement from the Department of Defense (DOD) calls that promise into question.
Under President Biden’s new policy, individuals who identify as transgender, and have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria, will not only be allowed to serve in the U.S. military, but will have their “gender transitions” paid for by American taxpayers.
Biden’s policy undoes decades of military practice, and more importantly, decades of common sense.
Facts are important here. Before 2016, U.S. military policy generally did not allow transgender individuals to enlist. In 2016, the Obama administration changed the policy to allow unrestricted military service by transgender individuals, including those with gender dysphoria.
After months of careful study, the Pentagon under Defense Secretary James Mattis modified this policy, prohibiting individuals from serving if they were suffering from gender dysphoria, or had a recent history of suffering from the condition. Everyone else who was qualified could serve.
Many on the left and in the media falsely termed this a “transgender ban,” when in fact, it was anything but. It was an important step taken only after thoughtful deliberation to ensure that America’s men and women in uniform were not put at risk in a rush to engage in social engineering with our armed forces.
The facts show that thrusting individuals with gender dysphoria into a stressful military environment would have devastating consequences.
The report issued by the administration in 2019 uncovered several striking findings from medical experts:
- Service members with gender dysphoria are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than service members as a whole (12% versus 1.5%).
- These individuals are nine times more likely to have mental health encounters than the service member population as a whole (28.1 average encounters versus 2.7)
- Individuals with gender dysphoria experience severe anxiety – between eight and nine times the rate of individuals without gender dysphoria.
These numbers are critically important in ways that America’s elites will never understand.
Military service is inherently stressful, especially so in a combat environment. Every member of the unit depends on the person next to him or her. They have trained and worked together constantly. Their relationship is one of trust – they know everyone has each other’s back.
Allowing mistrust or uncertainty into the unit weakens this critical bond. It breeds resentment. It causes doubt where once was certainty.
This is the heart of the transgender service debate. If those with gender dysphoria are at a much higher risk of suicide, crippling anxiety or other mental breakdowns than their peers, those serving next to them will be reluctant to rely on them. Permitting them to serve also violates the principle of not placing individuals at greater risk of injury in harm’s way.
Further, the Pentagon is creating a class of potentially non-deployable service members. The physical standards for deployments, even non-combat deployments, are rigorous and exacting, and do not allow for the intense medical requirements of “gender transition” procedures or their aftermath. This will harm readiness not just by reducing the number of available warfighters, but by breeding resentment among units who have members everyone knows will not be called upon to deploy with the rest of the unit.
Not only is the Biden administration allowing these fractures to develop, it is actively encouraging them.
This policy will weaken the U.S. military and signal to our enemies that the force is more concerned with political correctness than in challenging our adversaries and protecting our interests.
While China and Russia are busy investing in their military capabilities and seeking new ways to kill Americans and threaten our interests, the Biden administration is promising to not only welcome individuals with once-disqualifying medical conditions into the ranks, but to reward those individuals with taxpayer-funded “gender reassignment” surgeries and time off away from their unit and training regimen to recover.
But don’t worry – those taxpayer dollars will only add up to “a handful of a million dollars,” according to the Pentagon.
As usual, the consequences of this decision will be felt by the men and women responsible for our security, not the policymakers in DC.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
A retired Army lieutenant general, Thomas W. Spoehr is director of The Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense. John Cooper is Heritage’s associate director for institute communications and former Air Force captain.