The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Transgender Individuals Should Be Allowed To Serve Openly In The Military.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/14/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,127 times Debate No: 54703
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (12)
Votes (1)




You may be asking yourself "wait, I thought don't ask, don't tell was repealed"? Well, it was. But immediately after the congressional statute was torn down, the Department of Defense announced it was putting a total ban on transgender service members serving openly. This ban remains in place today. In March of 2014, a study was conducted that determined roughly 15,000 people serving in the Armed Forces of the United States identified as transgender [1]. These individuals face summary dismissal for violating this policy, and as a service member myself, I feel this should end immediately.

The study also concluded "Many male-to-female transgender individuals enlist to try to submerge their feminine sides, while many female-to-male transgender people enlist because they want to be in a hypermasculine environment."[1] If there are 15000 transgender individuals in the military, out of 2.3 million in all branches, that makes up .7% of the military. And if there are 24.5 million veterans in the United States, .7% of that population would be 1,715,000. So the total number of active, reserve and veteran service members is around 1,730,000; or roughly the entire population of Dallas, TX; Erie, PA; Cambridge, MA; Berkeley, CA; and Richmond, VA COMBINED [2]. This ban on transgender service cuts off veterans and service members that have bled for our freedom and liberty from healthcare they need, such as Hormone Replacement Therapy and Sexual Reassignment Surgery.

For 300 years the military said that homosexuality was incompatible with military service, for nearly two hundred years they said desegregating the military would ruin morale, just 100 years ago they said women were incapable of being warriors and even denied them the right to vote. In every case, the establishment was incorrect. We have the strongest military in the world because we recognize that it isn't whats on the outside that makes a soldier, it's the commitment to their countrymen, their bravery, their sense of duty, discipline, and selfless service. And those things are independent of race, religion, orientation, or gender identity.

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Lets start by defining the lines between prejudice and the upholding of standards REQUIRED for active military service. We have to bear in mind here that the goal of the military is not to end discrimination in America; it is to actively engage enemy forces and defeat them in battle. That is the goal of the Armed Forces, and, as simply as I can state this, there are some things that preclude service in battle, and indeed should. Things that, on the surface, may seem unfair are nevertheless best for the good of the Service and its requirements in battle.

These include things like being pregnant. You cannot join the Service if you are pregnant because sending women into combat pregnant would place them at potentially severe disadvantages in face of the enemy, not too mention, I know not a single honorable serving member of the armed forces would not take tremendous and potentially tactically stupid risks to prevent injury to a pregnant woman.

A single criminal conviction can also prevent you from serving, even if was an error in judgment that was singular, fully repented, time served, and your character is spotless. You are competing slots in the Service with members who do not have that blemish mark, and the goal, once again, is to field the most capable force possible.

The one that is perhaps most important in defining this issue is he medical aspect. As we see, issues with genitalia are severely discriminatory when seeking to serve in the military.

A fully transgender individual has, by definition, undergone a major surgery. It’s a surgery that has completely transformed a portion of the body that is, to put it mildly, incredibly important to the proper functioning of the human body. There is little sense in taking risks from competing individuals who have had major surgeries verses those who have not. That is a no brainer.

Even transgender individuals who have not had surgery, nevertheless has other obstacles to overcome:

One of the major requirements for successful service is mental resiliency. The problems encountered by Bradley (Chelsea) Manning, as he struggled with his gender identity were problematic for unit cohesion and struggle for his superiors to manage. The additional assignment to combat zones in the middle of that identity crisis only made the entire issue, as well as giving Manning the support he required during such a crisis while in a war zone, were immense and complicated.

Manning eventually came out to Capt. Michael Worsley and emailed the therapist a photo of himself dressed as a woman, wearing a blonde wig and lipstick. The photo was attached to a letter titled “My problem,” in which Manning describes his problems with gender identity and his hope that a military career would “get rid of it.”

Worsley testified at Manning’s sentencing hearing at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. He said the soldier had little to no support base.”

The military, despite popular misconception, has a finite amount of resources and, quite literally, global requirements within which to apply those resources. To create the required health care base, including hormone treatments (etc.), coupled with the potential risks of major surgery to correct the issues successfully, is simply a risk and expense that the military need not take. There are other applicants who do not require these expenses or entail these medical risks willing to serve and compete for a finite number and Congressionally limited number of slots.

The entire concept that the military has to adjust to the individual rather than the individual to the service indicates a fundamental misunderstanding of what the military is there for: to fight and win wars. Everyone who enters military service is going to comply with military standards.

There is no judgment placed upon transgender individuals. The military, however, recognizes the challenges faced by such individuals, and has acknowledged that those challenges are a risk that a force committed to sending the most capable forces possible need to tangle with at this time.

Is the system fair in every sense of the word? No. Its standards exist to deliberately stratify the applicants for military service and select the most capable from the pool of applicants. Transgender individuals bring with them risks that non-transgender applicants do not. As far as the military is concerned, that is all there is too it. I have an applicant with no medical requirements of issues in maintaining good order and discipline verses one that requires medical treatments like hormone therapy, possibly major surgery, and presents integration challenges to military leadership.

Its not discrimination, its stratification.

Debate Round No. 1


I would like to thank my opponent for accepting my challenge, I was beginning to think that nobody would.

Con has presented the exact same arguments others have when debating against progressive changes to military regulations, that the armed forces have neither the resources nor obligation to change for an individual. I will now refute his arguments, citing peer reviewed work in the field, and using historical references.

Argument #1
Transgender and Transexual people present unnaceptable medical risks to the military.

There is a difference between a transgender individual and a transsexual one. Gender is a role that society bestows upon a person, a person's sex is what they keep between their legs. Not all transgender people decide to get surgery of any type, in fact most never have the courage to transition or come out publicly. A transexual is usually considered transgender as well, but the opposite is not always true.

Con was correct in that transgender individuals require certain health care in order to serve openly, but so do many other non-transgender soldiers. The study I mentioned in round one, which was headed by the former surgeon general of the United States, had this to say:

"The prohibition on medically necessary cross-sex hormone treatment is inconsistent with the fact that many non-transgender military personnel rely on prescribed medications, including anabolic steroids, even while deployed in combat zones, and is based on inaccurate understandings of the complexity, risks and efficacy of such treatments." [1]

33% of the United States Army is on prescription medication, and nearly a quarter of those are on dangerous psychotropic drugs [2], other actually include HRT patients being treated for non transition issues. The denial of hormone replacement therapy has nothing to do with the stratification of risk, because we clearly already allow other service members access to medications which are much, MUCH more dangerous. I ask the audience to recall the case of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who killed 16 Afghan civilians in the middle of a Ambien induced blackout [3].

Hormone replacement therapy is nothing compared to some of these drugs, why then do we deny it to soldiers?

Argument #2
Finite resources and quality of recruits.

Another argument against providing transgender troops with health care is that doing so would place an undue burden on the military healthcare system, and that "there are other applicants who do not require these expenses". Except, that simply isn't true. We let people into the military with pre-existing medical conditions all the time, in fact in 2010 the Army alone granted 15% of it's new recruits a medical enlistment waiver of some type [4].

Our nearest allies, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, have determined that the risk of deploying transgender service members on cross-sex hormone treatment is low, and post- transition individuals from Canada and the United Kingdom have completed tours in Afghanistan. The US has deployed a post-operative transgender member of the Military Sealift Command repeatedly on Navy ships.

In addition, not providing HRT or SRS exposes the government to additional costs in the form of veteran healthcare. Doctors at the Veterans Affairs hospitals rely on the medical files obtained from the military in treating new veterans. A vet who was never diagnosed or treated for gender dysphoria in the military will only have worsening symptoms, and could "cause some to treat symptoms with alcohol or drugs, which could lead to substance abuse or dependence. Research has confirmed, as well, that policies that force individuals to conceal their identities can have significant mental health consequences. [1]"

Caring for individuals that self-medicate with narcotics, or attempt to harm themselves, is very expensive. It costs $45,000 a year to put someone through dialysis for kidney failure, not counting normal hospitalization costs which can total an additional $30,000 [5]. We pay more each year treating depression that we do on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly $83 billion [6]. Preventative care like hormone replacement therapy typically costs $100 a month, the money that would be saved from not having to treat just one of the above two cases would pay for the HRT costs of one person for LIFE, let alone annually.

The cost of denying treatment to servicemembers and veterans can also be measured in the number of lives lost every year to suicide, drug overdose, and related organ shutdown; nearly 8000, or 12 every day. Transgender service members are part of that number, and ignoring them won't prevent their deaths.

Argument #3
Troops coping with policy changes.

Since 1776, and all the way up to the Korean war, official Army policy was that minorities were incapable of serving with whites, that the result would be pure chaos and disorder, that morale would drop. It wasn’t until 1948, when President Truman signed executive order 9981 abolishing segregation in the military, that African-Americans were finally held as equal to whites in the military. It took nearly two hundred years for people to stop accepting segregation with blind faith, it took even longer for the bans on gay service members to come down. In every case, lawmakers and generals alike screamed from the top of their lungs about the devastating consequences of breaking down these barriers, and in every case they were wrong.

We are especially fortunate in this case however, in that many other nations have already decided to end bans on transgender service, even going to far as to provide HRT and SRS to their soldiers. Among these nations are Canada, Australia, and Great Britain. We have the opportunity to study how they’ve dealt with transgender integration and learn from them how to implement a similar system. These nations have deployed trans soldiers to Afghanistan since the beginning, and they did so with no issues [7].

Argument #4
Chelsea Manning.

Private First Class Manning knowingly and willingly communicated secret military intelligence and diplomatic cable files to Julian Assange, the editor of the wikileaks project. By doing so she betrayed the oath she took to defend the constitution of the United States, undermined operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, exposed service members and local intelligence contacts to considerable risk of retaliation, and hampered her nation's ability to conduct effective diplomacy.

PFC. Manning didn't leak those documents for money, she didn't leak them to uncover war crimes, she didn't leak them because of some mental defect. She felt sleighted by the United States military, and just wanted to watch the world burn. It is very unfortunate that she has become the poster-child for transgender service members, because the rest of us actually took our oaths seriously. Don't compare us to a traitor; hundreds of American service members over hundreds of years have given information to the enemy, one of them happened to be transgender.

In closing,

Providing healthcare to trans soldiers is no less risky than what we do for other soldiers, and can actually decrease the overall long term load on the healthcare system of the military and VA. Transgender recruits shouldn’t be turned away if non-transgender recruits are allowed in with similarly unique conditions.

I think I’ve proven my point, thankyou again for taking the time to read this debate and remember to vote Pro.

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Pro although making a solid case is also pointedly avoiding the reality of the issue here: Stratification of applicants to field the highest quality force possible.

Argument #1

Con = Transgender Disorder (TDO) vs. Transsexual

The first problem is right there. We are mixing rather than being clear on what the issue is:

Other mental issues, whether pre or post entrance are disqualifying.

The exposure to combat and deployment are likely to heighten any underlying mental heath issues and make the process and treatment MUCH worse. A person’s desire to serve vs. likely effect on combat. Stratify.

The problem with TDO is two fold – one, with counseling, it may work itself out (it often does). Once someone makes the decision that he or she actually desires to be another sex? The only remedy is a sex change – an expensive operation that the DoD does not and will not cover. Which does the military treat? Return to born gender or the surgery? Either way it gets slammed doesn’t it?

The worst part is that, even with all the treatments out there:

“…but identity problems may continue after this treatment. Diagnosing and treating this disorder early can reduce the chances of depression, emotional distress, and suicide.”

The military is struggling with suicides, and, in an effort to reduce that burden has placed increased scrutiny on ALL mental health issues.

Lastly, cons position about ‘prescription drugs’ is wide of the mark. That 33% includes guys taking prescription ibuprofen for strained muscles. The rational here, that someone else takes a pill should mean that we ignore a mental health issues, increased risks of suicide, and requires chemistry altering hormone/counseling … is well wide of the mark. We simply cannot ignore:

“in another study 129 Dutch psychiatrists reported on 225 patients with GID. The report noted that 79% had personality disorders, 26% had mood disorders and 24% had psychotic disorders.”

The question that must be asked is why TDO should be graded any differently than any other medical issue? No case is presented. Stratification was ignored.

Argument #2

Finite resources and quality of recruits.

Stratification. Con ignored stratification in 15% granted waivers. Where would you take risk? Someone who had a thyroid disorder? Tattoo that was removed? Missing the tip of his pinky finger? Smoked marijuana when he was 12? All require waivers. Why is TDO less risk? There are millions of qualified applicants with less resource intensive requirements.

Again, those with pre-existing mental health issues are at SEVERE risk of developing far worse conditions in combat. Even the most well adjusted individuals struggle with it, and with those with pre-existing MH issues the effects are measureable.

Groups like the PALM Center, whose sole goal it to incorporate transgender Soldiers into the military must be taken with a grain of salt. The conditions, as pro sites are anecdotal, ONE person serving a medical ship is not mixing it up with the Taliban. Claims that ‘our nearest allies’ have decided its OK, ignores that many of our ‘nearest allies’ also vehemently disagree. In each anecdotal case provided, all the ‘successful’ TDO individuals were post transition. Those in the midst of the disorder are at grave disadvantages, as we will see when we examine Chelsea Manning. How many Manning’s has the Palm Center likewise ignored?

Argument #3

Troops and policy changes.

Con over simplifying here. The military will do whatever it is told, including painting our tanks pink if told to. The question here is whether this is a good change for combat operations? Discrimination based on skin color? That one is a no brainer. When it comes to the admittedly inexact science of mental health the question is about where to draw the line.

Schizophrenia is treatable with meds, should we let them fix bayonets? Bereavement is also a mental health disorder, the death of loved one can create catastrophic consequences, and that too can be treated, should the military take the risk that close combat and the death of friends will not precipitate another adverse reaction?

The US military sees grave risk here, and in terms of policy; blindly following the lemmings for political sensitivity is not compelling enough reason to assume risk. Con lists SSG Bales, yet fails to note that he had pre-existing mental health issues that the military now says we should avoid. The military sees a risk that the TDO community wants us to ignore. We can’t.

I have worked with many foreign military’s (as have our generals who advise on policy issues) and the pressure cooker of stress in the US Military with its global requirement is many times more substantial. The anecdotal nature of con’s deference to our allies offer no basis of comparison.

Argument #4 - Chelsea Manning.

That Manning passed secrets is NOT the issue. Whether she did the right thing or not is a subject for another debate entirely. Con simply ignored the following:

“[CPT Wosely] said [Manning] had little to no support base.”

Change is not a magic wand. People, particularly those trapped in TDO, are under incredible stress. Deployments, even those away from front line combat, like an intelligence analyst, still require long and arduous hours in isolated environments. Manning struggled with emotional outbursts and even fisticuffs during his descent. Its debatable about whether this contributed to his manipulation by Assange.

Tell me, what anyone do when you have guys engaged 18 hours a day in pouring over intelligence seeking out bad guys, figuring out what they are doing, and how to exploit them and suddenly … someone emails you a picture of them dressed in a wig and says, “I have a problem.”

Well, now you are deployed, and everyone has a problem, and the military has elected to simply say, “Thank you for applying at this time,” and not take that risk.

The risk is not that a TDO individual is untrustworthy, the risk here is that the effects of the disorder are disruptive to military operations. Other than pandering to political sentiment or not to offend anyone, there is simply no compelling reason for the military to take the risks associated with the individuals who are, through no fault of their own, stuck in this disorder. There is a life worth living outside the military. Every one of us who serves deals with that reality at some point.

In the stratification of applicants, the risks of transgender integration simply are not worth the costs at this point. As we compare individuals seeking service, only so many will be allowed to serve and there must be a process that grades them from perfect all the way down to just shy of dead but can hold a rifle … sort of. Just like any organization, the military will establish a cut line in that stratification process, and some simply will not make it.

There is no compelling reason to adjust the cut line. On the contrary, there are serious risks, risks military leaders fully understand now when it comes to mental health – the lack of admitting that has lead to a crisis in the military for mental health and suicides. We would be hard pressed to convince leaders that we need to take any additional risk in this area. Anecdotal incidents are not hard data, and the down sizing military has no compelling reason, other than not hurting feelings, to make this change. Yet the cut line remains. There must be stratification of applicants, and no matter how those standards are drawn, someone is going to be offended.

Freedom from offense is not operational success.

Debate Round No. 2
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
@WB: "Many transgender people live their lives as transwomen or transmen, but never get the surgery. Believe it or not, the courts in the U.S. have held in several cases that transsexual people should no longer be held to the physical standards of the sex they were born with in the military. Some of those people were actually reinstated in the military."

Fascinating, and thank you. =)
Posted by William.Burnham 3 years ago
I'd be happy to debate you Sir, are you up to accepting the challenge?
Posted by PlainTruth 3 years ago
The US military is a joke around the world (ask the Russians) because we allow homosexuals to 'fight'.
I am sorry but men were created with testosterone for a reason, protection of their wives and children. The idea that a 'man' can fight with estrogen being the dominant hormone in the body is a fallacy.
Wake up America, we are truly doomed!

RIP America!
Posted by Craighawley215 3 years ago
Fair enough sir. Please feel fee to message me if you would like to discuss in private. Good luck with the debate!
Posted by William.Burnham 3 years ago

You bring up interesting points, but I'm going to save my rebuttals for my challenger, don't want to give away my battle plans :)
Posted by William.Burnham 3 years ago
Thanks for the comments guys!

Most people aren't familiar with this topic, but transgender has to do with gender identity, what you personally identify as. A transsexual is one who has undergone sexual reassignment surgery or intends to. Many transgender people live their lives as transwomen or transmen, but never get the surgery. Believe it or not, the courts in the U.S. have held in several cases that transsexual people should no longer be held to the physical standards of the sex they were born with in the military. Some of those people were actually reinstated in the military.
Posted by wrichcirw 3 years ago
Interesting. I've always associated transgender identity with major surgery, which would be a disqualifying factor for military service, but here you seem to make the argument that it does not involve surgery.
Posted by Craighawley215 3 years ago
First, I am not challenging your view.
I'm not challenging, because I agree that transgender individuals should be openly allowed. The benefits would be far reaching in the arena of equality. However, I see a serious problem with this concept.

First, the military could disregard sexual identification/orientation as a whole, but many soldiers would not be able to. This type of integration could potentially be very damaging to the strength and morale of the group, simply because there are some soldiers who would not appropriately handle such a situation. This could lead to problems within the bunks and also within the ranks on the battlefield.

In addition, the concept of gender is very difficult to overlook. Men are usually larger, stronger beings than women. That's not sexist, that's fact. Women simply have more difficulty reaching the same physical levels that men reach in their combat training. In addition, women are psychologically different then men. They react differently to their surroundings and each other. Men and women are different, and gender reassignment does not always overrule nature. If you submit to the argument that men and women should have different military training (which amounts to sexism, realistically), what standard would apply to transgender soldiers?

If the aim is to fully integrate everyone into the same battlefield, then I would argue that each soldier should be measured against the same standards that male soldiers currently are held to. This is far more difficult and exhaustive than most civilians realize, and also takes a high mental toll. This would mean that every soldier must prove themselves to the same physical strength and conditioning, must be willing to see combat. Which would admittedly rule out many prospective soldiers. But the biggest requirement would be that every civilian, regardless of gender or orientation, would be draft eligible.
Posted by William.Burnham 3 years ago
I'm seriously not though.
Posted by Mhykiel 3 years ago
Yep I did, no difference. You are totally pulling peoples leg.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by rross 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: Great debate. Con argued that transgenderism (if that's a word) is a disorder which will negatively affect a person's ability to perform military service. However, I thought Pro's point that this may not be true in all cases was convincing, especially because his opinion was backed up by the palm center commission report. (Although on page 5 it says that there are only about 134,000 transgender veterans rather than the 1.7 million that Pro claimed.) If the rules about other conditions can be waived in certain circumstances, it doesn't seem clear why this couldn't be waived as well. That means the rule may be arbitrary, discriminatory and unnecessarily restricting recruitment.