Donald Trump just announced, on Twitter, that the military would no longer allow transgender individuals to serve in the US military.
I want to say I am surprised, but I am not. I am, however, deeply appalled that this administration is rolling back more rights that the transgender community has fought so hard for.
Here’s the thing: Donald Trump’s decision is not about safety. Hundreds, if not thousands, of trans people are already serving in our armed forces. Our national security is strengthened when anyone who has the desire and ability to serve is allowed to. The transgender Americans in our military are not tremendously increasing costs or disrupting the armed forces because being trans is not the entirety of their identity. In fact, someone’s gender identity is probably one of the least effective indicators of one’s ability to perform any job, military or civilian. We are much better served when we assess ones strength, intellect, dedication, and experience.
This decision is also not about any particular personal or religious conviction on Trump’s part. In fact, Trump promised to be a fighter for LGBT rights. Of course, Trump’s word ought to be taken with serious skepticism given his shaky relationship with the truth, but it does signal that he doesn’t feel any particular deep or moral objection to LGBT people, like many of his Republican colleagues. This decision is largely based on pure cynicism. Trump’s most apparent guiding ideology is “getting wins” and overturning anything and everything achieved by the Obama administration. This is not a man governed by thought, by ideology, by reason. This is a man governed by hubris and selfishness, without regard for the human consequences incurred along the way.
This decision should not come as a surprise. Many reactions I have seen come with a certain incredulity that is not warranted by the state of transgender rights in this country. Earlier this year, in fact, Trump rolled back young transgender people’s rights to use the bathroom that suits their gender identity, another Obama-era ruling. And beyond the power of the executive, most states still do not provide basic protections in housing and the workforce that would allow trans people basic legal standing in discrimination lawsuits. In many states and cities that do afford such protections, like my city of Anchorage, their have been vigorous efforts by the right to undermine protections that have recently won. We also must not forget the higher rates of mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness, victimhood by violence, and sexual trauma incurred by these communities that is a direct result of the constant attacks they face, personally, culturally, and politically.
In processing my own feelings on today’s events, I spoke with a friend of mine who I think articulated this decision’s impact best. Their point was that this decision expands far beyond the implications for trans people who wish to serve in the military. As the most celebrated institution in American life, serving in the military is a huge avenue for obtaining cultural capital. By excluding transgender Americans, we exclude them from basic humanity and acceptance in American life.
We can not, and will not, ever live up to “land of the free and home of the brave” if we subjugate a group of Americans for no reason beyond naked fear and prejudice.
This is a difficult reminder for many transgender and queer people that equality remains an elusive goal. Please support your local LGBT organizations to ensure that there are safe spaces in your community for your LGBT neighbors. For support and help no matter where you are in the US, the Trans Lifeline is available and can be reached in the US at (877) 565-8860.