This Tuesday the Supreme Court granted President Trump’s administration’s request to allow it to bar most transgender people from serving in the military. There are still cases challenging the policy in the court system, but in the interim, most transgender members of the military will be barred from serving. This decision (5-4) revered a decision by President Obama’s administration to open the military to transgender service members. The decision this week generally prohibits trans people from serving openly, unless they agree to revert to their original biological sex determination.
According to the New York times on Wednesday, transgender people have been openly serving in all branches of the United States military since June 2016 including in active combat zones. The government has evaluated the change and has found no evidence of transgender military having any effect on military readiness. The reports show no evidence of harm as a result of enlisting and including openly transgendered soldiers in any branch of the service.
I am reminded of a conversation I had several years ago. It took me by surprise. When my wife Rev. Peggy was serving as your interim minister we lived in the summers in an RV in a private campground in Brewster. It was a true adventure and we enjoyed it. One of the conversations I will never forget happened in the summer of 2016. One of the best parts of living in a
campground is the community and the opportunity to meet people and talk. The people in the site next to us had a son who came with his family every July. He was stationed in Germany and was an officer with a lot of responsibility in the Army. We knew our neighbors pretty well but I never had a chance to talk to their son until one day when I was walking the dog. We met on a trail down by the lake and stood talking. It seemed he really wanted to talk to me and after a while he started to tell me that he was the commanding officer of a large camp of enlisted men and women. He was the one that people came to when they had an issue to discuss. More and ore he was a counselor to young adults who were away from home and coming into their own. In this capacity he had the responsibility to talk to people who were making the hard decision to come out as transgender.
He did not know many people he could talk to about this, so we sat on the dock that day for a long chat. Mostly I just listened. But what I heard really impressed me. This man took his duties very seriously. He was kind, loyal, thoughtful and very open to the people he was leading - open to their needs, their dilemmas and their aspirations. I was so impressed by the way that the military was dealing with this challenge and facing it openly and honestly. If this man was any indication the military was really ready to include all people who really wanted to serve.
That conversation has made a deep impression on me and I offer it now, as another perspective in what is becoming a national debate. As a pastor I am concerned whenever people find ways to discriminate against the vulnerable people in our society. As a citizen I am proud of our armed services and how they have stepped up.
As your pastor, I hope Pilgrim Church can find ways to really live our beliefs as an ONA congregation in this moment.