Metro Weekly

Trans veteran: Gender dysphoria can negatively impact military readiness

Jamie Shupe says that we have to acknowledge the problems associated with transgender service members

Jamie Shupe – Photo: Estrogin, via Wikimedia.

“When Rep. Vicky Hartzler pointed out that a service member becomes nondeployable for 210 to 238 workdays, that doesn’t make her a bigot. The harsh truth is she’s simply being a good custodian of the nation’s tax dollars and making sure our military is combat-ready at all times.”

Jamie Shupe, a transgender non-binary retired Sergeant First Class who served in the U.S. Army for 18 years, writing in an editorial for MercatorNet, a website that promotes traditional cultural norms. The editorial was republished in The Daily Signal, a publication of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. In it, Shupe defends points made by U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), who wanted to prohibit the military from paying for and provide transition-related health care expenses. 

Shupe writes that transgender military members who suffer from gender dysphoria can face problems that could prevent them from being ready to deploy overseas, which is contrary to the idea all military members must be ready to deploy at a moment’s notice. They argue that while Donald Trump’s blanket ban on transgender troops is wrong-headed, the reasons the president provided for why he was proposing it should not be dismissed out of hand.

“This debate really isn’t about transgender military service; it’s about gender dysphoria,” Shupe writes. “Just because someone is transgender doesn’t make them unfit to serve. ‘Transgender’ is a very large umbrella. Some populations under this umbrella have zero medical needs and do not suffer from gender dysphoria.

“But if a service member is affected by gender dysphoria, it can seriously affect their duty performance. While they’re obsessing about their gender identity, they don’t have their head in the game,” they continue. “Pointing this out doesn’t make anyone a bigot, transphobic, or a bad person.”

Shupe notes that gender dysphoria can cause anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. To treat gender dysphoria, patients generally seek out hormone replacement therapy and surgery to confirm their gender identity. But Shupe also says that the treatments for gender dysphoria are “not as harmless as the American public has been led to believe.”

“For example, in January I found myself in a hospital emergency room with swollen legs and feet. I had to be tested for blood clots — luckily I didn’t have any,” Shupe writes. “The swelling was caused by taking too much estrogen, as prescribed by a doctor at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Portland, Oregon. This happened even though I had been walking many miles a day to prevent it.

“Transgender military service in harsh overseas environments is simply not possible for all transgender people.”

Shupe also notes that most service members only serve one four-year enlistment in the military. Therefore, a transgender person suffering from gender dysphoria who is not combat-ready for seven of their 48 months of enlistment is not a bargain for the military. To suggest otherwise, Shupe says, would be disingenuous.

Lastly, Shupe points out that there are problems associated with allowing transgender people to serve, noting that, in the military system, promotions are based partly on meeting physical standards. A transgender person who transitions from male to female, for instance, has an unfair advantage over biological females.

“As a former senior enlisted leader and as a nonbinary transgender person, my allegiance is not to the trans community. My allegiance is to the defense of this nation. That didn’t change when I lived as a transgender woman for three and a half years,” Shupe writes. “That’s why I am speaking out. Because not every member of the transgender community is fit for military service. Nor is every male or every female, for that matter.

“President Donald Trump is seriously mistaken in putting a blanket ban on transgender military service because not every trans service member is impacted by gender dysphoria. Neither does every trans person need to transition their sex,” they conclude. “But the president and those that share his views are not completely wrong. 

“Those surgical and hormonal treatments for gender dysphoria have problems and complications. The unfair effects of transitioning people on the military promotion system are real and discriminatory against biological females. Time away from duty and being nondeployable are indefensible,” Shupe says. “Pointing these things out doesn’t make me transphobic. Nor does it make me a traitor to my own community.”

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