Privacy in the military: A female officer’s testimony

January/February 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the personal testimony of a Kentucky mother of four who is an officer in the Army Reserve. Her name is deliberately withheld.

“As I listened to our company’s June 2017 legal brief detailing the forced inclusion of transgender people into our ranks, I scanned my soldiers’ faces for signs of their thoughts. We were being informed that if a soldier were simply to walk into a military doctor’s office, complete a course of “treatment,” which could range from as little as several counseling sessions to a full sex change operation, their gender designation would be changed from male to female or vice versa. As soon as the designation was switched in the military records system, the soldier would immediately be eligible for full inclusion into their newly acquired gender class.

“In the civilian world, this type of designation can be somewhat ideological; but in the military world, it means something very practical. In austere environments, soldiers share open showers, open latrines, open sleeping quarters; simply put, there is no privacy.

“The lawyer calmly informed us that this policy could mean that we would find ourselves standing in the shower or bunking up with somebody who still had the body parts of the opposite sex but had the designation of our gender. If we were uncomfortable with this arrangement, it was our problem; and if we expressed our discomfort, we would be the one removed from the situation.

“At the conclusion of the brief, the questions flew thick and fast, especially from my female soldiers. They asked if these transgender soldiers would be required to carry an ID that would show their gender, and if they could be asked to show it before getting in the shower with them.

“The answer was, ‘Negative, putting that information on an ID or asking to see it would be discrimination.’ I could see fear and embarrassment etched across their faces. Considering the fact that between 1-in-3 to 1-in-4 females have been sexually assaulted before they even enter the military, this fear does not seem unfounded.

“Ever since the Obama administration decreed in 2016 that the military would be open to transgenders, we as soldiers had been preparing ourselves mentally for what shape this inclusion would take. When the details were released in 2017, we were still unprepared for the seismic cultural and policy shift that was passed off as a minor adjustment.

“Throughout the last several decades, the armed forces have aggressively trained against and prosecuted those who are guilty of sexual harassment or assault. Now we were being ordered to cast aside all caution and fully embrace the idea that no harm could come to us or our soldiers by sharing the most private settings with anybody who arbitrarily claimed the same gender, or even perhaps, with those who pretend to share our gender in order to perpetrate sexual violence.

“As an officer in the United States Army, my primary job is caring for my soldiers. I take my job seriously. There is only one reason soldiers should ever be placed in harm’s way, and that is to ‘support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. . . .’

“It should never be in the name of tolerance and inclusion.”