I found this short documentary from the New York Times, “Transgender, at war and in love”, to be both disorienting and inspiring.
Disorienting, because the young man seen speaking in the first minutes of the video, strong, muscled, tattooed and moustached, was born female and his fiancee, seen later in the film, is also transgender, born male. Within the video he speaks about the liberating effect of being deployed in Afghanistan, where he is judged solely on his ability and competence, and the uncertain future that might await him back once he returns to the States where the military might still treat him administratively as female and even discharge him.
It’s also inspiring because of the hopefulness of this young couple, and their insistence that they are as deserving of love and happiness as anyone else.
In the wake of the Caitlyn Jenner unveiling on the internet, I found the quiet and gritty ordinariness of this story to be refreshing and honest.
In a separate article in the New York Times, it’s estimated that there are some 15,500 transgender people serving in the US military. Since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed, gay men and women may serve openly in the US military, but for transgender troops their future is still uncertain. The Canadian Armed Forces allows transgendered troops to serve, and supports gender reassignment therapy for serving personnel. I don’t have any idea how many transgender personnel are in the CAF, but according to this CBC article, it’s likely minuscule by comparison to the US.
As the father of a transgender child, I also find myself sympathizing with the father in this documentary, who trips over the gender of his daughter/son. I do that as well.
In an age where identity seems increasingly plastic and aspirational, and where theologians and clergy are struggling to reconcile doctrine with their discernment of what God may be doing in the moment, I have no clear thoughts on this subject. I do know that anyone who wears the same uniform as I do, takes the same oath, and serves with honour and integrity, is a comrade and battle buddy of mine. As a chaplain, I’m bound to serve them as needed, and should do so gladly. That seems a good place to leave it for now. So good luck and blessings to you and your bride, Airman Logan.