While campaigning for president, Donald Trump made a concerted effort to disparage, demean, or clumsily pander to practically every minority group in the nation: Latinos, immigrants, women, Muslims, African-Americans. There was one conspicuous absence: LGBT people. By the admittedly low standards of his rivals for the Republican nomination — among them, overt homophobes like Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Mike Huckabee — Trump seemed downright enlightened. When the attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub happened in June 2016, Trump used the the overwhelmingly LGBT victims as a reason to fight terrorism. (This is hardly a model for sensitivity, but it’s better than echoing Pat Robertson and claiming sinful ways invite God’s judgment.)
This morning, Trump woke up and decided to say, “Screw that.” In a series of tweets worded as if he were speaking to the nation over a PA system, he said that he was banning transgender Americans from serving in the military.
Was it a classic distraction move from the political figure with the shortest attention span? Had Vice President Pence given Trump a talking-to? And who were these unnamed generals, anyway? In reversing a yet-to-be-fully-implemented policy from the outdoing Obama Administration that would have allowed Americans to serve in the military irrespective of their gender expression, Trump gave no indication of what might happen to trans members of the armed services who had disclosed their true identities to their colleagues, nor any other specifics.
The condemnations were swift, and came from sources both predictable (the ACLU, ex-Pfc. Chelsea Manning) and surprising (senators John McCain and Orrin Hatch). Some people pointed out that the U.S. military spends five times as much money on pills for erectile dysfunction than it does on gender-confirmation surgeries and other forms of trans medical care. Is this really about “combat-readiness,” or is it a play to shore up support with Trump’s conservative base? Either way, top military brass were so caught off guard by the inconclusiveness of Trump’s first tweet that some thought an attack on North Korea was imminent.
Numerous California politicos released statements of their own.
State senator Scott Wiener:
“I’m disgusted by this bigoted move by President Trump. First, Trump attacks transgender children trying to use the restroom. Now he’s attacking trans soldiers who are putting their lives on the line for our country. This man has no shame. Presidents typically expand civil rights protections. This guy goes the other way and tries to stamp them out. How can our country lead internationally when our President attacks civil rights at home? This horrific move makes me want to fight harder to support and protect our transgender brothers and sisters. Let’s all recommit to moving the LGBT community forward in spite of our bigoted President.To the transgender kid who is terrified right now by what our President has done and what this all means: Know that many, many people are there for you. We have your back. We will get through this nightmare.”
“This is just the latest example of the discriminatory and divisive policies being crafted by the Federal Administration.
This nation’s guiding principles promise equal protections and rights for everyone, which includes the honor of joining the military and sacrificing for one’s country. These are brave, honorable individuals who seek to serve their country by putting their lives on the line in defense of others. To deny them those rights based on their gender identity is bigoted and marks a betrayal of American values.
In San Francisco, we will continue to practice compassion, empathy and inclusiveness, while offering full protections for every one of our residents. We will always fight for the rights of our transgender community.”
Senator Kamala Harris:
“The President’s decision to force transgender individuals out of the military is discriminatory, wrong, and un-American. We should not punish or turn away courageous people who are willing to risk their lives to serve our country—we should embrace them.
“The President’s claim that the service of transgender people impacts military readiness is not backed up by facts, nor is it publicly supported by our military leadership. Removing thousands of transgender individuals currently serving would damage our security and make it more difficult to recruit the best possible fighting force going forward. Indeed, Secretary Mattis recently reaffirmed that all service members should be treated with dignity and respect. The White House is playing politics with our national security, plain and simple.
“As we mark the anniversary today of the desegregation of our armed forces, I stand with our transgender service members and all those who selflessly defend our country.”
There will be an emergency protest at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro at 6 p.m. tonight. In the meantime, let’s leave the last word to Trump’s strongest transgender supporter, Caitlyn Jenner. She seems a little miffed.
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