On US Soldiers’ Moral Obligation to Reject Compelled Gender Ideology

News: Commentary
by Dr. Michael Robillard  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  July 26, 2021   

A hill worth dying on?

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"Not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit, neo-Marxist. Not red, but rainbow." — Fr. Marek Jędraszewski

Soldiers doing a house raid

When I was a young platoon leader serving in Iraq nearly two decades ago, trust was essential. In a midnight house raid, for instance, I needed to trust that all my squad leaders were going to move and communicate in the way we had planned and drilled beforehand and that they would follow my orders when I gave them.

Similarly, when they were executing their part of the mission, they needed to trust in me to competently coordinate their actions on the ground in accordance with the company commander's higher mission back at headquarters. So too did I need to trust in my company commander to successfully quarterback my platoon's efforts on the ground in accordance with his commander's higher mission, and so on. Done well, this is how single soldier decisions win moments, which win battles, which win operations, which win wars.

This is all to say that the bedrock virtues of a functioning military are the ability for soldiers to trust one another and to obey orders. This claim, however, comes with two essential caveats: 1) that a soldier's trust and obedience be grounded in law and morality, and 2) that there is a presumed shared objective world about which we fundamentally share our orders, laws and language.

Obedience to such compelled ideological incoherence drastically undermines both the Constitution and the God-given rights that service members have sworn to defend.

The present standing order for all U.S. soldiers to accept compelled gender ideology (veiled in false "rights" language) is grounded in neither. On the contrary, obedience to such compelled ideological incoherence drastically undermines both the Constitution and the God-given rights that service members have sworn to defend and uphold as well as undermines the most basic elements of trust.

If soldiers are presumed to have special "rights" by virtue of "being transgender," then the term "gender" must actually have meaningful and coherent content. This, however, is not the case. As Catholic political commentator Matt Walsh rightly notes:

The Left tells us that "gender" is a social construct. ... If "gender" is an artificial construct and our physical features have no bearing on our identity as man or woman, then what the hell is a "woman" anyway? A "woman," in that case, would not be defined by her feelings, her thoughts, her ideas, her preferences, her body, her reproductive organs, her DNA, her chromosomes. … Well what is she defined by? What is she? When a man says that he is a woman, he now makes it that that phrase means nothing."

Given Walsh's point about the incoherence or vacuousness of terms like "gender," this set of content-less utterances cannot be the proper grounding for special negative or positive rights claims. As philosophers Wittgenstein, Kripke and Putnam have forcefully argued, meaning and language are fundamentally public in natureAccordingly, if our shared set of public meanings is presumed to be about a shared objective world, and one's "gender identity" is presumed to be wholly privatethen it is logically impossible for other language users to understand, let alone adjust, their behaviors in accordance with a term or concept that is, by definition, completely opaque and inaccessible to them.


If other language-users cannot make meaningful sense of another soldier's wholly private "gender identity" in any respect, analytically or synthetically, then, assuming "ought implies can," it logically cannot be the case that other soldiers have any special duties to one another that derive from such an incoherent or vacuous term.

Once we presume that terms like "man," "woman," "he" and "she" no longer refer to our shared network of public meanings, which, in turn, presumably refer to our shared, objective world in some sense, and instead cede monopolistic control of those terms to a set of privileged speakers, system-wide incoherence, mass confusion and a deep breakdown of trust occurs. Consider the following questions,

  • In granting legitimacy to the notion that certain men can become women by mere stipulation or that they can be "gender fluid," doesn't such a commitment end up violating the rights of Christian, Jewish and Muslim soldiers who believe that there are only two essential sexes specially determined by God?
  • If soldier and officer promotions are, in part, evaluated by sex-based physical fitness metrics, then isn't it unfair to actual female soldiers who must now compete with special "trans" women soldiers (i.e., actual men)? 
  • If one can be transgender, then why can't one be trans-racial, trans-age, trans-height?
  • How are soldiers to address officers as sir or ma'am, if, on the transgenderist's view, it is both a grave wrong to not first ask for a person's pronouns as well as a grave wrong to ask for a person's pronouns because doing so would be too invasive?
  • If a female soldier stipulates that she has "transitioned" from a woman to a man, and we are therefore obligated to retroactively change all records of the past to report that she was always a man, then if she was always a man, from what did she "transition"?
  • If all records of the past that directly or indirectly reference a soldier's sex must be updated to align with each soldier's moment by moment-felt "gender identity," then how can any factual reporting, past or present, occur at all?
  • In terms of Uniform Code of Military Justice sentencing, should male inmates who identify as women be allowed to be moved to female prisons?
  • In urgent triage scenarios and rushed logistics and manpower scenarios, how can frontline reporting ever be accurate if soldiers are scared of "misgendering" someone?
  • If "gender identity" is wholly subjectively determined, then how can an individual ever be said to be mistaken about his or her own wholly privately and internally stipulated definitions as in reports of persons being so-called "ex trans" or "former trans"?
  • And if such persons themselves can be so fundamentally mistaken about their own internally stipulated gender identity, then how on earth can we possibly have laws and legal penalties that require everyone else to know such a thing and to adjust their behavior accordingly, moment by moment by moment?

Indeed, since language and meaning are inherently networked, once we allow a privileged group of soldiers to have monopolistic control over the meanings of such fundamental terms as "he" and "she," "male" and "female," then the truth status of every proposition that is directly or indirectly related to these concepts ends up being affected. Like introducing a single line of bad code into a computer program, the entire program ends up being influenced. Such is the case with the military's wrongheaded efforts to try to make official legal accommodations for soldiers' wholly subjectively determined "gender identity."

If we are to understand transgender "rights" claims to be meaningful at all, then we should regard them as linguistic shorthand for the set of liberties of freedom of expression and freedom of religion already guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The scope of such rights claims should therefore be exclusively relegated to the private sphere.

Gender ideology has pervaded the U.S. Armed Forces

If one, however, ascribes to a Christian or Aristotelian conception of biological function, then such rights claims end up actually doing great harm to those persons suffering from actual gender dysphoria who require proper medical help and counseling. The irony, of course, is that soldiers actually suffering through the anguish and confusion of such a condition have been rendered into little more than mere means for this latest leftist social engineering experiment.

The logical implications of transgender ideology are Orwellian in their totalizing scope and demandingness. The political consequence of allowing basic negative rights claims to swell unopposed to the level of all-encompassing special positive rights claims that gain legal teeth beyond the armed forces will be nothing less than the legal sanctioning of a new priest-class of magical people who speak all of objective reality into existence, with the rest of society compelled to simply obey.

Such rights claims end up actually doing great harm to those persons suffering from actual gender dysphoria who require proper medical help and counseling.

As a young cadet, a mentor once told me: "As an officer, you can only ever die on a hill once … so pick that hill wisely." Were I still in the military today, I would not hesitate to die on this particular hill over this particular issue, since it, in essence, embodies a set of commitments too incongruous and contrary to the animating spirit of the Constitution I originally swore to defend, to the ideals of my Catholic faith, family and heritage, to any semblance of the good, the true, or the beautifuland to basic logic and common sense.

I ultimately leave it up to each military member, however, within the privacy of their own heart and conscience, to make up their own minds about their own particular lives and their own particular hills.

--- Campaign 32075 ---


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