If persons who identify as transgendered are forbidden to serve in the United States’ military, have they been deprived of a civil right?
The asking of the question—which the media is not so much asking as asserting—betrays something of a misunderstanding. War-fighting is not a sphere of activity that has traditionally concerned itself with egalitarian ideals, personal expression, or diversity quotas. It is concerned with combat readiness, and that concern produces rules that proscribe participation.
If you are too young or too old you cannot serve. If you have a history of drug use or mental illness you cannot serve. If you lack a high school diploma or GED you cannot serve. If you are too fat you cannot serve. If you lack a bachelor’s degree you cannot commission as an officer. If your eyesight is weak you may not train as a pilot. If you fail to promote, you must eventually leave the military and your career ends. Once you reach a certain age you must retire. The list continues.
These rules determine who serves, the capacity in which they serve, and their length of service. Such rules exist not to deny any person his or her civil rights, but to ensure military readiness. When political correctness, the claims of egalitarianism, or identity agendas attempt to redefine the rules, however, the conversation is often framed in terms of civil rights.
Is it really about civil rights? If it is, then refusal to allow morbidly obese persons to serve is also a civil rights issue, for it represents unwarranted government discrimination against overweight people. The mandatory retirement age for officers is also a civil rights issue, for it represents government-sanctioned ageism. Every rule that determines who serves, for how long, and in what capacity can be seen as a civil rights violation, but only if a civil right is defined as my right to do what I want when I want for as long as I want in whatever institution I want—including the military. Simply because I desire to serve, is it my inalienable right to do so? Historically, our answer has been No.
That answer is now changing. From opening combat roles to women to opening military service to those who identify as transgendered, it is clear that combat-readiness is no longer necessarily the driving concern that governs our rules of military service; political correctness that defines self-expression as a civil right now drives the bus.
In Joshua 8:3 “Joshua and all the fighting men arose to go up to Ai. And Joshua chose 30,000 mighty men of valor and sent them out by night.” Note those whom Joshua did not take into battle: women, children, the aged, or the infirm. He took fighting men, and even distinguished those who were merely physically capable of fighting from those who were trained and proven warriors—the “mighty men of valor.” Joshua’s decision made sense from a military standpoint, while it also precluded women, children, the aged, and the infirm from participating in armed conflict.
President Trump’s transgender military ban will likely suffer judicial overthrow, and even if it does not a subsequent President will reverse his policy. The dye is now cast, and our society has transitioned from one that makes military decisions based upon war fighting concerns to one that makes decisions based upon politically correct concerns, which are conveniently—if not erroneously—framed in terms of basic civil rights.
Simply put, military service is not a civil right. It is a privilege.
Our nation has—without public protest—denied that privilege to various segments of its own citizenry for years. Sometimes, as in the case of refusing black men the right to fight for their country on equal terms with white men, that denial has been grounded in raw prejudice rather than military necessity. Some will argue that the same is true in reference to transgender troops. If so, then they should make the argument that transgender troops will not adversely affect war-fighting capabilities, rather than making the disingenuous claim that a transgender military ban violates a civil right.
It does no such thing, and to assert so is to offer a red herring.