This week, the former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis published an essay in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Duty, Democracy and the Threat of Tribalism: Lessons in leadership from a lifetime of service, from fighting in the Marine Corps to working for President Donald Trump.”
Here’s what one transgender servicemember had to say in response.
Dear Former Secretary Mattis,
You have long been a man I admire. Your prowess for calm demeanor and wise leadership who sought evidenced based solutions to complex issues was something that I as an officer was keen to emulate.
I completely understand that many times strategic solutions are not meant for the more vulnerable or the politically undesirable. Those types of decisions are meant for, lack of a better term, the greater good. However, you, as a retired service member, who understands readiness and lethality more than most, what you did to the transgender service members under your charge was a big blow for me in terms of who you are willing to stand up for. It seems we were the easy ones to sacrifice for the greater good, despite the large majority of those who remained ready and lethal because we understood the level of sacrifice it requires to wear the cloth of this nation.
You stood by us mostly as Congress tried to legislate our healthcare. But the moment we were unceremoniously thrust into the huge public eye of twitter, it honestly felt as though at that point we became an inconvenience to the larger strategic goals.
Your essay mentions that we must build coalitions for successful means to our goals. We spent years building those coalitions to ensure open service was achieved. Your essay also mentions to bring all your friends with guns to the fight. We brought the AMA, the APA, the other APA, generals and admirals, commanders and fellow service members. Even one of the most respected DOD think tanks. All of that to be usurped by an unnamed authored report misusing data and old research rather than a truly data driven decision as was reached the first time around.
You refused to meet with trans service members despite all of the times we reached out to staff for low key meetings. As far as I know, you have never met one or talked about your concerns.
You initiated a review based on your own bias and political pressure rather than waiting the regular two years of policy implementation review.
Instead on that particular day, we were forced to defend ourselves. Carefully and it seems by permission as none of us received any warnings about how we approached it. I do hope that we impressed you by our ability to navigate a politically sensitive topic without violating article 88.
Your essay specifically stated, “When it comes to the defense of our experiment in democracy and our way of life, ideology should have nothing to do with it.” I was very disappointed with the outcome of your study. The reasons listed as why we were being deemed “unfit” were many of the same that have been used when excluding other persons.
We are a military of standards and fighting an enemy that could care less about a person being trans, cis, straight, or gay. If we have service members who are uncomfortable to the point where they cant serve with those who believe differently, then they should find another line of work. The “standard” of serving in birth gender was added in the newest revision and not one there to begin with. The standard is the job. No matter what the job is. And no transgender service member has ever stated differently.
Your essay is correct that we are being driven to tribalism. But not by what you think. There are forces at work that seek to ensure a single way of thinking whose foundation is set in theocracy and white supremacy, not diversity and the merit of ideas and innovation.
Your essay is well written, true, piercing and full of hypocrisy. Your own actions, from where I stood, do not reflect the action of your words and my own former defense secretary put us out to defend ourselves.
I hope that one day we can have that discussion and that you prove me wrong. I would love to know that you did actually want to defend us, but had some other thing of greater importance that needed more than the faith of a few thousand troops.
LCDR Blake Dremann
These are my views and do not represent any official stance by the DOD.