Letter To The Editor: A Rebuttle

This letter is in response to the August 3 Rest of the Story by Pat Merriman.  In it he makes use of poor information, bias, and innuendo to argue against the open serving of transgender troops in our military.  As an elected official and district attorney I would hope that he could make an argument without relying on them, as in law school he should have been trained how to argue without them.

To start with Mr. Merriman makes an ad hominem attack against Eric Fanning by saying he was hand-picked by Barrack Obama and homosexual.  These two issues have no bearing on his personal feelings about transgender troops, they are separate issues.  The chiefs of every branch of the armed forces are chosen by the President and are Senate confirmed positions.  Mr. Fanning was confirmed by a Republican Senate by unanimous consent.  Also, there is no experiment to expand, allowing transgender troops to serve openly is the current policy of the U.S. military.

Mr. Merriman cites a Rasmussen poll as evidence of a lack of American public support for the policy.  I do not know which Rasmussen poll Mr. Merriman used but the one I found was conducted in late June 2017 and asked if allowing transgender people to serve openly was good for the military, bad, or have no impact.  Only 31% said it was bad.  The question being asked matters when citing poll information.  In other polls, 58% of adults think transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military according to a poll conducted by Reuters in late July 2017.  68% of Americans and 55% of military households believe transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military according to a Quinnipiac national poll conducted in late July 2017.  I do not know which Rasmussen poll Mr. Merriman used but the one I found was conducted in late June 2017 and asked if allowing transgender people to serve openly was good for the military, bad, or have no impact.  Only 31% said it was bad.

As to the costs, the RAND corporation, of whom Donald Rumsfeld is a former Chairman of the board, conducted a study with the Defense Department in 2016 that determined there were between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender members of the armed forces and that the cost for medical care for transition surgery would only increase health care costs by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million each year.  That is a thousand times less than the $3.7 billion cited by Mr. Merriman.  For comparison, the military spends $1.87 million on each Tomahawk cruise missile and $84 million annually on Viagra.

As for transgender being a mental disorder, the American Psychological Association, the leading scientific and professional organization for psychology in the U.S., does not classify being transgender a mental disorder and says there are many reasons why one may be transgender, including biological.  Mr. Merriman should know that it is improper to cherry pick your experts and ignore the larger body of work in a field to find someone who confirms your views.

The argument that allowing transgender troops to serve openly would hurt both readiness and morale was also made against by objectors to the desegregation of the armed forces, against women serving in combat roles, or against gays serving openly.  Each time our troops have overcome their prejudices and unease, and accepted their new comrades.  Because when you are in combat it does not matter what color, creed, gender, or sexual orientation the person fighting next to you is, all that matters is that they are a fellow member of the U.S. military.  These are men and women who chose to serve our country and possibly give their lives in its defense.  They deserve our respect.

Finally, since the President’s tweet the commandant of the Coast Guard has said he will continue to support transgender troops.  Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the proposal to ban transgender troops, and the Defense Department has not received an official order from the White House yet to carry out that policy.  So this remains yet more words which the President has not backed up with any kind of action.

Jeff West

Killdeer, ND


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