Admittedly – and perhaps regretfully – I don’t know much about the transgendered community. But I do know that our collective differences as a society make us stronger on the whole, and I’ll always believe in and vehemently support the equal rights and opportunities of all Americans regardless of sexual identity or preference, race, religion, and on and on as our differences become more nuanced and personally identifiable. A true desire to see this belief cherished and nurtured by all Americans, and preserved by our elected government, was one of the reasons I joined the military.
The military is by no means free of racism, homophobia, sexism, or any other sort of discrimination. All those things that exist in society also exist in the military, and in some cases, those intolerances can be even more pronounced. A service traditionally dominated by men at the peak of their testosterone production, who are trained to react quickly and violently to any opposition, and who often have few outlets by which to discharge their stresses, might cling more strongly to their prejudices and vociferate them more readily among their common sympathizers.
However, one of the differences between our military and the rest of America is that our service members are not granted the same freedom to openly discriminate as the very Americans they volunteered to die for. We free Americans can express our bigotry according to our whims, critics be damned. For our servicemen and women, their whims need to be reordered so that they lay far below their oath to defend the freedoms of these United States, the military unit, and the person standing next to them in battle. First and foremost they are Marines, soldiers or airmen. Their shared trust in one another is built through their mutual perseverance of the same training, the same battles, and the same chain of command. Once earned, this trust evolves into loyalty, and it surpasses any prejudice that preceded it. That loyalty is what drives our service members willingly into combat.
When I served, the desire to stand for a belief that all Americans deserved the same rights and opportunities didn’t seem threatened. But today, as our president casually tossed out his intention to prevent our transgendered citizens from serving – or even continuing to serve – that simple belief needs defending.
I only hope that our military members, who ultimately take their orders from this commander-in-chief – our president – will rely on the trust that they’ve built among each other, and that it surpasses not only their own prejudices, but also those of the reckless and divisive President of the United States who gives them their orders.