Transgender Transgression

During his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump made it a point to seek support from the LGBT community, promising in a June 2016 tweet:

“I will fight for you.”

He failed to mention that he wouldn’t let transgender soldiers fight for him, or for the rest of the country.

Trump’s sudden statement last week that transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in the U.S. military is more than just another example of his breaking a campaign pledge and bowing to political expediency. It  shows once again the administration’s ready-fire-aim approach to issues that deserve far more deliberation. 

The blatant unfairness of Trump’s edict is clear to anyone who cares about basic human rights and human dignity. Ironically, it came 69 years to the day after President Harry Truman’s order that integrated the armed forces. That move set a standard that has slowly broadened over the decades, leading to President Barack Obama’s order last year that ended the outdated prohibition against transgender people serving openly in the military.

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Trump’s reversal, announced in a series of tweets, caught top military officials off guard. No one could answer basic questions about implementing the new policy, such as what happens to transgender people who are already in uniform. Until such clarification comes, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, there will be “no modifications to the current policy.”

A story by reporters at Politico (http://politi.co/2uhpD2i) gives added insight to the sudden dramatic change in military policy. It says that House Republicans who were working to approve money for Trump’s ill-considered wall on the border with Mexico insisted that in exchange, the Pentagon would not pay for sex-reassignment surgery. 

Rep. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican from western Missouri, was one of the main proponents of the ban.

The president was all too happy to oblige, Politico reported, and took the even more drastic step of barring transgender individuals from serving at all. 

Not surprisingly, the new policy has drawn criticism from a wide spectrum. The best plea for rationality came from Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a helicopter pilot who was awarded the Purple Heart after she lost both legs serving in the Iraq War. 

She called the Trump policy “half-baked, at best” and said it would weaken U.S. security because it undercuts the basic value of inclusion.

“When I was bleeding to death in my helicopter after that RPG ripped through the cockpit of the aircraft, and an American came to save my life,” Duckworth said, “it didn’t matter to me if they were gay, if they were straight, if they were transgender.” 

It shouldn’t matter to anyone else, either.