NEWS & ANALYSIS

U.S. Naval War College Pushes Elementary-esque Lecture on Highly Debated Transgender Military Service


The U.S. Naval War College hosted a lecture titled “Transgender Military Service & Why It Matters,” which discusses the history of transgenders in the military by means of elementary school-level depictions. 

The teacher of the ethics class, Pauline Shanks Kaurin, is a professor in the College of Leadership and Ethics, and the Admiral James B. Stockdale Chair in Professional Military Ethics. The speaker, meanwhile, is Bree Fram, a Lieutenant Colonel and astronautical engineer in the U.S. Air Force and is currently the senior-ranking transgender officer in the Department of Defense. 

As described in the video’s bio: “this lecture traces the history of the fight for open transgender military service from the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell up through the present and the reinstatement of inclusive service policy. The lecture shares the roller-coaster ride that transgender military personnel have experienced over the last ten years and discusses why the concept of diverse and inclusive service is so important to success in the conflicts of tomorrow.” 

The video begins with a collage of several military members. The speaker says, “They do everything that any of you might do or have done in your military careers…they joined for all the same myriad reasons that any of you might have joined.” 

The video continues to provide a 10-year history of the “rollercoaster” that transgender people have been on in the military. An actual slide of the rollercoaster is used to create imagery. 

“If Harry Potter taught us anything, it’s that no one deserves to live in a closet. That closet is an inherent limiter of potential,” Fram said. 

“By the time 2016 rolled around, we kind of thought, okay now’s the moment. I think this is going to happen,” she continued, discussing the pressures of the Trump years on transgender people. “To this day, I don’t think there is a good answer of why did this happen, what created the conditions that this would be the tweet that the president sent out that morning,” she said of the 2017 transgender military ban. 

The speaker then uses an image from the movie “Spaceballs” to represent “why this matters to our military” and what we can get out of diversity.” 

She continued with a picture of two fighter jets, asking “Please tell me which of these pilots is trans. Please tell me from whose perspective that matters. Does it matter to the person on the ground who’s under fire? Does it matter to the other pilot who’s trained for years with their wingman and knows they have their back in every situation?”

Then comes a picture of the sinking of the German battleship Ostfriesland after WWI when the U.S. had it and used it as a way to test how to sink ships with an airstrike. Fram said that it was an innovative idea and asked, “what if the person who might revolutionize the way we fight in cyber, or the way we fight in space has that brain to do it but happens to be in a trans body? Are we going to pass on having the Billy Mitchell of cyberspace in our military just because society has for some part of their life perceived them as a different gender than who they actually are?” 

The training is done in a manner geared toward grade school children and brings up none of the ethical questions or constructs that such a topic would rightfully generate in an ethics class. The lecture itself appears to be a part sales, part indoctrination presentation to promote transgenderism in the military, an issue still hotly debated by military experts on a variety of grounds.