Transgender Troops: Three Transatlantic Views
Inclusive Leadership is Mission Critical
President Trump’s announcement via Twitter that transgender troops would be banned from serving in the U.S. military came just as GMF brought together over 80 military and civilian leaders from the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia for an in-depth exchange on diversity and inclusion best practices. The event, “Mission Critical: Inclusive Leadership for the Security Sector” included representatives from seven of the 18 countries whose militaries successfully allow transgender individuals to serve: Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
In this period of rapid demographic change on both sides of the Atlantic, and in a time of increasing competition for talent, participants focused on how to most effectively design and implement diversity recruitment, retention, and advancement in partner militaries as well as in domestic security forces. Likewise at GMF where a high performing team is essential to our success, we stand by the business case for diversity and our strong diversity statement.
As a member of the U.S. Senior Executive Service (retired) and currently as a fellow at GMF, I have been able to observe first hand that there is no correlation between sexual orientation or sexual identity and the ability to serve one’s country. Both in-house and in our outreach, GMF strives to be inclusive of individuals of various ages, genders, national origins and races, religions, sexual orientations, political affiliations, and veteran status, as well as individuals with disabilities. This is the right thing to do, and it is also the way for us to maximize performance.
Looking outward toward our transatlantic partners, we are committed to strengthening our democracies, and we stand strong for the international liberal order and the vision of the Marshall Plan, including the advancement of civil and human rights. I am proud that we are able to advance inclusive leadership in the security sector as well as across sectors through thought leadership, convening, training, and exchange. This is nonpartisan, essential work that must be accelerated.
Lora Berg is a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States.
Exclusion Equals Military Disadvantage
For some, the question of who we allow into our militaries is an ideological one. Do we want Muslims, blacks, Latinos, women, gays, and even transgender people to wear our flags, our colors?
Pragmatically, the answer is easy and clear: yes. Many citizens go out of their way to avoid military service, so we should be happy for anyone and everyone who volunteers. Recruitment goals could not be met without minorities and women and many studies have shown that diverse groups are more effective.
Aside from the pragmatism, being able to serve one's country is a privilege. It shows that you are willing to give your time and well-being for your country and its values. It shows that you, as a representative of your community, feel so connected to your country and its values that you would give your life to defend them.
Taking this privilege away from one specific group, not for military but ideological reasons, is more a statement about the excluder than the excluded. It says that even if someone is well qualified to protect you, you would rather accept a military disadvantage than to be protected by someone from that group. You would rather agree to a greater threat against your values, your family, and yourself than to allow someone from the excluded community to pick up a weapon and stand in harm’s way on your behalf.
So, in the end, the question is not whether we feel comfortable with black, female, or transgender soldiers but whether the ideologically driven denial of service to specific groups is worth the safety of our nations and families. The answer to that should be obvious.
Dominik Wullers is spokesman for the Federal Office for Bundeswehr Equipment, vice president of DeutscherSoldat, and a former Marshall Memorial Fellow (2016).
Armed Forces Should Be a Reflection of the Society They Serve
EUROMIL (European Organisation of Military Association) continuously advocates for human rights, including forrights of LGBTI armed forces personnel as “citizen in uniform” since its foundation almost half a century ago. As “citizens in uniform” soldiers should be entitled to the same rights and freedoms as every other citizen in a democratic society.
During the last years, one could observe that the armed forces of Western countries were making an effort to gradually become reflective of the societies they serve; women were allowed to join the armed forces, bans on LGBTI people were lifted, and increasingly, people with a migration background and different beliefs enlisted.
Without any doubt, there is still a long way to go to fully integrate LGBTI people in the armed forces, to grant them equal rights and opportunities, and to fight discrimination and prejudices. The decision of the U.S. president to ban transgender person from the U.S. military is, however, a step back in time. There is absolutely no evidence suggesting that the inclusion of transgender people in the armed forces has a negative impact on operational effectiveness. On the contrary, there are numerous studies showing that diverse teams perform much better than homogenous ones.
Furthermore, the decision was taken based on a “consultation with generals and military experts” and sadly failed to involve other important stakeholders such as human rights and diversity experts, soldiers’ representatives, and members of Congress. Finally, the decision violates U.S. international human rights commitments and sends a negative message about the status of human rights to other military institutions and human rights defenders worldwide.
In democratic countries, the military serves the people. It should therefore be fully reflective of the society and no group should be excluded from joining the armed forces.
Emmanuel Jacob is president of EUROMIL.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.