A German soldier was reprimanded because of an online dating profile. She was punished for her sexual freedom — the same freedoms that the armed forces claim to be fighting for abroad.
BERLIN — Anastasia Biefang completed two foreign missions in Afghanistan. For two years, she was the first trans woman commander of a battalion of the Bundeswehr, Germany's national armed forces. Her rank: lieutenant colonel. She defended and fought for Western values such as democracy, tolerance, respect for human rights and freedom of the individual.
And this freedom, for which she endangered her own life, is now being denied to her – by her employer, the Bundeswehhr, after all, and the Federal Administrative Court of Germany. “Commanders must consider the impact on their professional reputation when making private internet appearances,” reads a recent press release from the Federal Administrative Court.
Biefang had created a profile on an online dating platform. She was recognizable on it, however the profile did not have a complete name and had no references to her activity in the Bundeswehr. The text of her profile read: “Spontaneous, lustful, trans*, open relationship looking for sex. All genders welcome.” Her disciplinary superior reprimanded her for this.
Different than the Taliban
The Federal Administrative Court has now ruled that the disciplinary measure was lawful. In its reasoning, it said that “a female soldier in the particularly prominent official position of a battalion commander with personnel responsibility for approximately 1,000 people would have to show consideration for her professional position” when choosing the words and images used on the internet.“She must therefore avoid wording that creates the false impression of an indiscriminate sex life and a significant lack of integrity of character. The words ‘open relationship looking for sex. All gender welcome’ also raise doubts about the required integrity of character from the perspective of a reasonable observer, which is why a reprimand was allowed to be invoked against this formulation as the mildest disciplinary measure."
For our constitutional state, an indiscriminate sex life should be a freedom of the individual
Enemies of freedom, whether from the Taliban, the radical right or the left, like to blather about the decadence of the West. Depending on the political current, the issues they bring up are luxuries, the use of intoxicants, the stance on migration, or individual intimate decisions, such as with whom and how one has sex or to which gender one feels one belongs.
In Afghanistan, homosexuals, transmen and other “sodomists,” as it is called there, are stoned and burned to death, often publicly in front of crowds in a folk festival atmosphere. These atrocities are some of the reasons why the Bundeswehr was also in Afghanistan.
Anastasia Biefang was not stoned to death. But she was disciplined by her employer. It is a scandal that a German court has come to the conclusion that the “impression of an indiscriminate sex life” evokes a “considerable lack of integrity of character.”
Because that is exactly what should distinguish our rule of law from the Taliban. For our constitutional state, an indiscriminate sex life should be a freedom of the individual that deserves protection – just like driving a Ferrari, smoking, or setting up a climate camp with juggling workshops.
Anastasia Biefang during a handover of command ceremony in Storkow, Germany
The Bundeswehr writes on its website about “freedom, equality, democracy, human dignity and the rule of law.” On its homepage, the Bundeswehr presents itself as the defender of the free democratic basic order. The Bundeswehr literally writes: “Whoever [...] actively works towards an elimination of the free democratic basic order must expert observation by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and investigations by the police and judiciary.”
But anyone who denies a female soldier a mature and, above all, non-criminal sex life, and sanctions her for it, is doing just that. Anyone who acts in this way is actively working towards the elimination of the free democratic basic order. But the soldier Anastasia Biefang cannot rely on the constitutional protection, the police and the judiciary. She is allowed to defend our freedom in Afghanistan, but she is not allowed to live out her own freedom, whether in the darkroom or at home.
It is not the trans soldier who is perverted, but the state for which she was willing to die.