If you don’t like political posts, feel free to skip this one. But it’s important, so I do hope you choose to read it.
(Context: I began this post some days ago, obviously. Or perhaps not so obvious, given the fluctuating outrages of late. Anyway. I don’t like offering “hot takes”, and I’ve had issues with illness and such, so this is rather later of a post than I’d intended. Also warning: there is Sarcasm in this post. Be wary.)
I am very rarely this angry and heartsick, but the breaking news of the last 24 hours has me lit up something serious. More realistically, it’s the last seven months building to yet another crest, but that’s not nearly as poetic, so let’s stick with the first line and roll with it.
Deep breath. Here we go.
I’m very proud of our military branches. All of them. I’m tremendously proud of the men and women who serve every day, protect our country, and deal with unimaginable levels of stressful, life-threatening shit. I’m proud of them for dealing with their own internal bureaucracy, like the way admins can lose every single copy of a form you signed in triplicate; I’m proud of them for putting up with so much while knowing damn well that by and large, they’re seen as replaceable cogs in a big machine.
I’m proud of people like Ashton Carter, who served the Defense Department in various roles (Deputy Secretary of Defense, for one) during the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2011, the lifting of the barrier for women to serve in combat from 2013-2015, and the explicit acceptance of transgender service members for active duty roles in 2016.
I’m proud of the dedicated folks who put together amazing resources like Military One Source: Now I know that in 2011, there were over 1.1 million people on active duty across our military branches. At that time, 18% were women. By contrast, in 2016, there were over 1.3 million serving, and women were down to around 15%.
By the way, there was a hell of an outcry back in 2010 about the whole proposed “women and gays in service” decision. Here’s a WaPo article.
Here’s a takeaway quote though, one from each:
CNN: Women joined the crews of the Navy’s surface ships in 1994, but officials had previously cited limited privacy and the cost of reconfiguring the vessels in arguing against their joining sub crews.
WaPo: Navy officials said they don’t anticipate a problem. In fact, they said one motivation in enabling women to serve on submarines is to increase their pool of potential recruits; it’s not always easy to persuade people to live and work underwater for months at a time in a cramped, steel tube. … “We literally could not run the Navy without women today,” Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Wednesday, pointing to the decision 17 years ago to allow women to serve on warships.
One set of officials argue against. Another set of officials argue for. Lots of arguing all the way around. Read those articles, they’re a fairly stark contrast to one another. Women were only allowed on warships for seventeen years at that point. That’s practically yesterday, from a historical viewpoint.
Again, that was 2011. Six years ago. Lots of debate, arguing, compromise, money spent and saved along the way.
Last year, in 2016, the DoD issued this quote from Ashton Carter in a statement:
““I am proud to report that five years after the implementation of the repeal of `don’t ask, don’t tell,’ our military, drawn from a cross-section of America, is stronger than ever and continues to exemplify the very best that our great nation has to offer,” (Full article here)
Now I’m going to start swearing. Buckle in.
Lot of folks have been working their fucking arses off for years to get a huge, complicated series of changes through a lumberingly inefficient system designed to resist change. And they moved the mountain, yes they did. That fucker was beginning to roll.
Today, jackass-in-chief tosses out a bombshell tweet with as much thought as my dog gives to taking a shit in the morning. Laden with arguments that were already torched ten fucking years ago, if you simply swap out “transgender” with “women”. Dropping his own people in the shit without warning (no surprise there), putting forth a ridiculously abbreviated timetable for rolling back changes that took years to put into place (also no surprise), and comprehensively torpedoing his never-really-believable claim to be a “real friend” to the LGBTQ community.
Back it up a step. Let’s go back to numbers for a moment. There are, depending on the number you want to believe, either under seven thousand or under sixteen thousand transgender folks in active service. There are a hundred and thirty four thousand transgender veterans.
Out of one point three million active service members.
Someone else can do the math, because I suck at that stuff, but it sounds like a really low percentage to me.
And what would supporting this tiny fraction of folks cost us, you ask? Between 2.4 and 8.4 million annually. Oh, that sounds like a lot! But wait. The total current healthcare budget is reckoned in the billions.
Here are a few interesting numbers. They’re drawn from an uneven sampling, but I don’t think the proportions I’m pointing out would be substantially affected by a couple of years in either direction.
Now, to those numbers:
1,000,000,000,000 Total governmental discretionary spending budget (2015)
496,000,000,000 Base military budget, from which is drawn:
135,000,000,000 for military personnel
63,000,000,000 Research and Development
49,000,000,000 for all medical activities
6,000,000,000 for active military health care
575,000,000 requested budget for recruitment ads in 2017
84,000,000 for erectile dysfunction medications (in 2014*)
53,000,000 spent on marketing contracts with professional sports teams (2012-2015)
8,000,000 max estimate for military care of transgender personnel
2,000,000 low end estimate for ditto
99,000 CBO 2010 estimate of avg compensation/year for active duty
(60% of active duty compensation is generally non-cash)
59,000 average NON cash compensation for active duty service members
40,000 average cash compensation (pre tax) for active duty service members
31,000 is roughly what $15/hour at 40 hours/week comes out to (pre tax)
18,000 is roughly what $ 9/ hour at 40 hours/week comes out to (pre tax)
16,000 is official poverty line in the USA for 2 person household (2017)
* INCLUDES active duty, eligible family members, and RETIREES
(Because even retired veterans gotta be able to fuck, amirite? Oops, I mean retired MALE veterans, of course.)
OK. So. Let’s say we’re looking at it as fifteen thousand transgender people serving right now. Eight million divided by fifteen thousand comes out to a whopping FIVE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THREE DOLLARS EACH. Holy shit. How exorbitant, to spend so much on folks willing to die for their country. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)
How about the lower number? Let’s go with the seven thousand people estimate and keep the higher number of estimated expenses, just for the shits of it. Eight million divided by seven thousand would be…Just over eleven hundred dollars. Per. Person.
Look at the average non cash compensation line again. Almost sixty thousand dollars per person. Health care for presumed cisgender folks is budgeted out at, let’s see, let’s go with round numbers to make it easier. Six billion dollars divided by one million serving comes out to six thousand dollars each. Spread that out over how many tax paying Americans, exactly, and you get…what? Yeah. I’m not even running the numbers on that one.
Now–of course it’s not an exact even average, some folks will spend more, some less, etc etc. But come on. Just from the math, it’s asinine to argue the expense angle. So let’s drop kick that into the fucking trash bucket and be done with it already.
Take away the money argument and what’s left? Stark bigotry. One argument being trotted out: “Transgender people aren’t as capable!” Yeah, well, “everyone knew” that about women, people of color, and gays. That “common knowledge” proved out as bullshit.
(If you have an argument that you think proves otherwise, please miss me with it. I’ve known too many living examples of women, POC, and gays being absolutely stellar military service members.)
Listen: a transgender woman IS A WOMAN. A transgender man IS A MAN.
And ya know what? If the bigots are right, and folks who claim to be transgender are deluded, and lying to themselves? (They’re not. But just for the sake of argument.) It still ain’t none of your damn business. If they’re able to run through the various challenges of boot camp and put on that official uniform, who the hell are you, on the sidelines, to say a damn thing? I don’t care if you’ve served in the military, or are still in service. The moment someone lays hands on you or causes provable problems, you can complain about that particular individual (unless you’re female, of course, but that’s a whole other rant). Until then, shut the hell up and cope.
And if you’re in a command position in the military, you have an moral and ethical obligation, a duty, to look for and build up the strength in your troops, not to drive a wedge into the weak spots and turn your troops against one another. My opinion, at least. Anything less is completely dishonorable and disrespects the immense effort every single one of those service members under your command has put into standing before you every day.
Oh, another argument being thrown around: “The military isn’t a place for social experiments!” Horseshit. What do you call taking thousands of human beings and training them to kill on command, in numerous inventive and gruesome ways? And then having to retrain them to enter a civilian population that can’t generally be allowed to know what’s been done in our name? Look. I said I’m proud of our military, and I am. But any military has a distinct purpose: to train human beings to kill other human beings, en masse, for a cause, whether or not they individually agree with that cause. If a military unit cannot destroy its target, whether that be with guns or computers, it’s completely useless.
Military units have been around almost since we figured out which end of the stick was the pointy one. The larger they are, the more they must rely on a mandate of “just following orders” and less on individual volition. To achieve that, there are endless, ever-shifting pressures brought to bear against a population as a whole, and to military service members specifically, to render us susceptible to going against what we personally believe is right–in some cases, to completely replace what we think is right. Social experiment? We’re already in the middle of thirty different ones, from corporations and government, never mind the military! What the everloving fuck does it matter if one such experiment involves competent, strong-willed, determined people happy to risk their lives to prove their dedication to this country? (Please note that I, personally, don’t see this as an experiment. That’s a demeaning and foolish term to use for basic human rights being put into place. I’m merely looking at the folks who do.)
The only argument left, then, is that folks who claim to be transgender are Abominations Before God. And seriously? Fuck right off with that shit. Because no.
So I’m angry. And writing this hasn’t helped as much as I’d hoped. But maybe that’s a good thing.
Maybe this isn’t something we should ever get over being angry about.