In the midst of its ongoing war, Ukraine made the difficult decision to enact martial law and require all men between the ages of 18 and 60 to remain in the country to defend it from invading Russian forces. This has led to a large number of women and children fleeing the country without their husbands, brothers, fathers, and grandfathers. It is truly tragic, as the last time these families possibly see each other alive is being torn apart at the border.
And while this is currently a problem solely for Ukrainian men, many have begun to think about how it would translate here in America. If we were to come under attack, would you stay and fight or would you try to leave? The answers to this question vary widely based on age, marital and familial status, political affiliation, and a variety of other factors. However, one rule is so widely understood that there is no real reason to poll it: The idea that women and children shouldn’t be forced to stay and fight for their country is pretty standard in the Western world.
This brings up a very interesting question here at home. In the last several years, there has been a push to allow for changes of sex on governmental IDs. Last year saw the addition of a non-binary option to birth certificates, passports, and in many states, driver’s licenses. Governmental IDs would be the primary source of the government knowing whether, in the implementation of martial law, to let someone go or require them to fight. In fact, this is a huge source of contention in Ukraine right now, where they do not allow for such changes on government-issued IDs. If you were born as a man, you must stay and fight. If your ID says M, that’s what you are, and you can’t leave. CBS ran a feature story of a man claiming to be a woman and trying to get out of the country. It is doubtful that there’s a woman claiming to be a man and staying to fight because honestly, you would have heard about it by now.
So the question certainly exists: Should men change their IDs to something neutral to give them an out in case it’s needed? To be clear, this is not an advocation to desert your country in a time of need. That part is completely up to the individual. This is just a question that can be answered now to give you the option if the time comes. After all, women are allowed to stay and fight in Ukraine. Women are allowed to enter the US Army. They have never been required to do so, nor will they likely be in the future, but the option is there.
So if you were to change your driver’s license to X instead of M, you could potentially give yourself the option to get out of a future bad situation. And that’s the other side of this issue. If you would have said this a year ago, there would be no real reason to assume that mandatory service would be an option, but we are now in a time where war is happening in Europe, and if Russia gets too close to a NATO ally, we may be pulled into a war. If that happens, who knows what will be required of those currently not enlisted in the United States military.
There are definitely some of you out there who are of the opinion that we should fight if called upon. This country has been more or less good to the Jewish people - at least as long as anyone of fighting age can remember - and you would be proud to serve if called upon to do so. And that’s great. Maybe this option is not for you, despite the fact that you will still be allowed to fight should you choose to do so. But maybe you want the option for yourself. Maybe you want the option for your son. If there was a way for you to keep your son out of the army, would you do it? Changing his gender to X is a simple method.
I know that there are those of you out there who are going to be apoplectic about the mere suggestion of using the X designation to my advantage when it may not apply to me. The answer to that is the government has the ability to know everything about you. They are actively giving you an option that will tell them less about you. Why wouldn’t you take it? I’m not advocating for people to renounce their gender; I am giving people an option equivalent to “I’d rather not say.” This should not be used to get into places that are designed to be exclusive to the opposite sex. It is designed to be an out in extreme circumstances. Will people abuse this? Of course they will! We see people abusing this every single day. Men claiming to be women to be sent to a different prison or get access to a spa, but this advocacy will not add to an already broken option. It will give the country exactly what it set itself up for: fewer men.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.