Navy Secretary defends trans troops as ‘patriots’

The Navy was the one branch that didn't want to delay trans enlistment.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was the latest military leader to chime in this week about President Trump’s proposed military ban. Though he’s prepared to follow any order he’s given, he disagrees with the proposal.

“We will process and take direction on a policy that will be developed by the secretary (with) direction from the president — and march out smartly,” he said Thursday while visiting Naval Station Norfolk, adding, “As I said before, on a fundamental basis, any patriot that wants to serve and meets all the requirements should be able to serve in our military.”

During his confirmation hearings in July, Spencer had made a statement that seemed to mirror the talking points of those who oppose transgender inclusion, saying that individual military branches should not be a “Petri dish for social experiments.” He clarified, however, that he meant that that changes should be deployed military-wide instead of being handled differently by the branches. “We have to work together, including all our service people, to make sure that they are given what they need,” he said, “whether that be spiritually, whether that be psychologically, whether that’s materialistically, to fight forward, so readiness is the key and lethality is the product.”

Trump said Thursday that he was implementing the ban as a “great favor” to the military. Trans enlistment was supposed to begin July 1, but the Army and Marines requested two-year delays, ultimately prompting Defense Secretary James Mattis to agree to a six-month delay. Though it preceded Spencer’s confirmation, the Navy was actually the one branch prepared to start accepting transgender troops on July 1.

Spencer is not the only military leader to express resistance to the ban. Last week, Admiral Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, said that he will not “turn his back” or “break faith” with the transgender service members who are openly serving.

So far, no official order has been issued to the military and trans people are continuing to serve. There has been speculation that the warmongering over North Korea may delay its implementation, though Trump certainly sounds still dedicated to it. General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said there will be no changes until Mattis issues implementation guidance at the president’s direction. “In the meantime,” he said, “we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.”