The Travails of Lieutenant Marty

The U.S. Military, transgenderism, and the logic of psychological man

But transgenderism is not about who uses which loo. That question is the trivial point of a very long and sharp spear, useful for belittling the concerns of those who believe that there is a profound connection between biology and gender. Transgenderism is set to change everything—our understanding of sex, of identity, of relationships, of the significance of the body. And it does this because it demands a revised metaphysics of personhood, a project with profound and comprehensive social and political implications. School bathroom policy is a good example: It has already prioritized government rights over those of parents. There’s the rub.

 

One of the standard techniques in political propaganda, left and right, is to present ideas or events as discrete units, to be taken in isolation and detached from any larger historical or philosophical narrative. This technique is useful for relativizing the significance of scandals. Thus, to the faithful left, Clinton’s emails are a minor aberration—as are Trump’s comments about women, to the faithful right. On a more sinister level, this technique is also a means of bringing about huge social change by making every hill seem so small that none can be worth dying on. Thus, for example, transgender bathroom policy is about nothing more than, well, who uses which bathroom (and people like Rod Dreher are therefore just reactionary cranks).

But transgenderism is not about who uses which loo. That question is the trivial point of a very long and sharp spear, useful for belittling the concerns of those who believe that there is a profound connection between biology and gender. Transgenderism is set to change everything—our understanding of sex, of identity, of relationships, of the significance of the body. And it does this because it demands a revised metaphysics of personhood, a project with profound and comprehensive social and political implications. School bathroom policy is a good example: It has already prioritized government rights over those of parents. There’s the rub.

Another example is provided by a document buried deep on The Department of Defense’s website, Transgender Service in the U.S. Military: An Implementation Handbook. Psychological Man (and Woman, and Gender Non-Conforming), Uncle Sam needs you!

The handbook opens with the axiomatic distinction between biological sex and gender (page 9). I say “axiomatic” because the handbook presents the distinction as inarguable, reflecting the current political climate in which to have a dissenting opinion on this point, or even to ask for some form of justification of the axiom, is outlawed, on both intellectual and moral grounds.

In fact, the distinction rests upon a highly questionable concatenation of social theories, political postures, logical fallacies, and psychological assumptions, and a comprehensive rejection of historical social practices. For example, that male and female roles do look different in different societies does not logically entail that there is no connection between biology and the range of socially constructed gender roles different societies represent. Indeed, the preponderance of historical evidence points to precisely the opposite conclusion.

The document makes interesting reading. It indicates just how contorted the military’s rules and regulations have become in order to deny the reality that men and women are biologically different in a way that determines their suitability for certain tasks.

For example, take the hypothetical case of Lieutenant Marty (pp. 50-51):

Lieutenant Marty changed his gender marker in the Service personnel data system from female to male after completing an approved transition plan. Lieutenant Marty has not had sex reassignment surgery as part of the transition plan and is working with his MMP on a plan to start a family. Lieutenant Marty approached his commanding officer a few weeks ago and mentioned he was pregnant.

The document gives advice to Marty and to the Commanding Officer. The strangest instruction is surely this:

Even though Lieutenant Marty has maintained female anatomy, he must be screened for pregnancy prior to deployment. If Lieutenant Marty became pregnant on deployment he will be transferred in accordance with Service policy.

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