“The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things. It’s not to transform the culture by trying out some ideas that some people think would make us a different country and more diverse. The purpose is to protect America. I’m not sure how paying for transgender surgery for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines makes our country safer.”
So, what exactly did U.S. Republican candidate Mike Huckabee mean when he made that statement during the Fox News leadership debate on Thursday night?
Well, a headline over a Guardian report gives us a clue: “Huckabee’s debate checklist: ‘illegals, prostitutes, pimps’ and a manly military”
Presumably, as the latter part of that headline suggests, Huckabee thinks that some transgender people won’t be up to killing people and breaking things — they won’t be manly enough — after they have been on hormone therapy for a while and have had sexual reassignment surgery.
Could there be anything to that line of thought? Would transgender women be any less capable of serving in the same combat roles other women serve in? Would they be any less capable of dropping bombs on the terrorist forces trying to set up a rogue “Islamic state” in Syria now?
Perhaps Huckabee is concerned about cohesion, and how the transphobia of other military personnel might be a distraction for the unit and weaken their ability to kill people and break things.
One CBC report in 2011, with the headline “U.S. military urged to follow Canada’s transgender policy,” does quote someone talking about transphoba within the forces “at the ground level.” Reports the CBC: “… a retired Canadian Forces member who has done extensive work on diversity issues said that the military’s top leaders do generally set a tone that emphasizes respect and inclusivity. The challenges more often come up at the ground level, within individual units.”
Or perhaps there was something else — something more sinister — going on when Huckabee was questioned by a panelist during the Fox News debate about transgender people serving openly in the American military. Perhaps the question was a setup to make it an election issue, now that the Pentagon has announced “a working group to spend six months examining ‘the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.’ ”
After all, Fox News is not the greatest supporter of transgender people, and the Republican debate was happening on its turf.
Transgenderism is a hot topic — and issue — in the U.S. these days in the aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage, which right-wingers saw as a defeat for their ability to control the parameters of everyone’s lives. Many believe they see a war on transgender people as a potential consolation prize and have increased their anti-transgender rhetoric since the top court ruling.
And judging from the round of applause that Huckabee received when he made his statement on Thursday night, a lot of people agree with his view.
Expect to hear more of it from Republicans as the race for the presidency heats up.
— Jillian Page, LGBT Perspectives editor
“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey