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Op-ed: Mike Huckabee's Revival of the 'Social Experiment' Fallacy

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For the past two generations, Americans have been joining the military at a stunningly small rate. Less than 0.5 percent of the population will ever serve in the armed forces. That comes out to roughly 1.4 million people on active duty, with another 850,000 or so in the reserves. Of those numbers, over 15,000 troops are estimated to be transgender. The numbers don’t seem like much, until we start looking at who these troops are.

Aircraft mechanics. Intelligence specialists. Special forces members. Pilots. Engineers. Submarine officers. Surface warfare officers. Infantry. Motor pool specialists. Supply and logistics personnel. Officers and enlisted. Nuclear-certified, top-secret clearances, millions of dollars in training. The best of the best, more often than not. Military personnel involved in humanitarian efforts, serving in dangerous overseas situations, or supporting the mission from back home — these are the airmen, solders, sailors, and marines making our country safer. And these are the same service members who are serving without proper medical care; the same medical care afforded to their cisgender peers.

Current policies interfere with mission success. There are no two ways about it. When you have personnel in situations where they are forced to lie about their daily life, their medical needs, and who they are as a person, you are asking these people to work twice as hard as their counterparts. It is already obvious that there are transgender military personnel, and they are serving with honor despite these limitations. Imagine what would be possible once the military policies are up to date with the current medical standards? It is not that the United States military is becoming a “social experiment” by allowing open trans service, as Mike Huckabee recently put it, but rather, it is catching up to the rest of America. The Department of Defense is not an organization to act quickly nor rashly when it comes to internal issues. When it does move, however, it aligns itself with whatever will create a more effective military.

Being a civilian, however, Mike Huckabee can’t be expected to understand how the Pentagon works. Quite frankly, I’m not sure if he understands how the military works. As a transgender veteran, honorably discharged from the United States Air Force, I find it incredibly offensive to be told that the military exists only to “kill people and break things.” And as for the thousands of troops serving across the world in humanitarian billets? I can only imagine how insulted they must be — cisgender and transgender troops alike. To state that the military exists only for two reasons shows great ignorance of the military, of the role our armed forces takes in humanitarian relief, and of the people serving in uniform every single day.

So I must ask the former governor, who are you to second-guess the Pentagon and the Department of Defense, which are moving toward open transgender service? Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and his gay chief of staff, Eric Fanning, are both supportive of their trans military personnel. Who is Mike Huckabee to say that these leaders — of our country, of our troops, who are in charge of protecting America with every resource they have available — are wrong?

America is not going to become weaker due to supporting all of its honorably serving troops. It is going to become weaker through ignorance, fear, and hatred. All of which are preventing transgender troops from receiving necessary medical care under current policies, despite their honorable service. It’s time to stop fear mongering and campaigning on hate, and time to start paying attention to facts.

LANDON MARCHANT is a transgender veteran of the United States Air Force. He served in Minot, N.D., as an aircraft metals technician, maintaining the B-52 bomber fleet through machining, welding, and metal fabrication. He is a member of SPART*A, an organization of LGBT people who currently serve or have served in the military, and actively involved with its trans* military chapter. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C., metro area with his girlfriend and dog. 

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