Muslims, the media, refugees, people of color, Latinos, the courts, women, etc., etc., and now the President has set his sights on the transgender community. In Donald Trump’s ongoing war against the American people, he used a favorite arrow from his quiver: twitter.
With little warning, the President tweeted that the US Government would not “accept or allow” transgender people to serve “in any capacity” in the military. The President’s proclamation, was made despite the fact that somewhere between 2,000 and 15,000 transgender individuals currently serve honorably and faithfully in the armed services.
The President couched his announcement in the conclusion that “After consultation with my Generals and military experts” accommodating transgender persons is an obstacle to national security and military discipline. He went on, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail…”
Studies show that the cost to fully accommodate trans individuals in the armed services is minimal (approximately .01%) when compared to the overall military budget; and there is widespread disagreement over the notion that including trans individuals in our military would be disruptive. Quite the contrary: removing those who are already in place would be a logistical nightmare and have a significant impact on morale. No less an expert than Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning told MSNBC that removing transgender service personnel would be “a serious disruption of the force and an impact on readiness.”
There was apparently no formal process for arriving at the President’s conclusion and no indication how such a policy would be implemented.
The transgender community continues to wrestle with discriminatory regulations on bathroom access in public places. Murders of transgender women, especially women of color, because of their gender identity, has escalated in alarming ways. In this context, the President’s attempt to render invisible a segment of our society that has battled for acceptance is unconscionable and divisive. And, it demonstrates short-sighted leadership.
Three additional elements of this decision come to mind: First, the policy was revealed as a fait accompli on twitter. An issue as sensitive and complicated as gender identity in the military cannot be accurately addressed in 140 characters, nor should it be revealed in a medium like twitter. The President’s action apparently surprised even Defense Department officials and the military brass. But this method of communication reveals a troubling question: How can we have intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful conversation about this subject when the opening volley is a tweet from the President?
Second, like the travel ban of several weeks ago, there is no indication as to how this policy will be enforced. What does “accept or allow” mean for those who are already serving? Who made this determination and on what grounds? How does this impact current service personnel and recent recruits who are transgender?
And third—curiously—a careful read of the President’s tweets reveals there was a nine-minute gap in the President’s tweets that outlined his position. The opening tweet announced, “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……” and then, fully nine minutes later, the President finished his thought: “…Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military…”
How anxiety producing is his first tweet, especially in times of nuclear saber rattling from North Korea, continuing hostilities in Syria and Ukraine and the ongoing Russia investigation? Given the President’s propensity for volatility and his penchant for distraction (see last week’s blog) from the issues crowding in on him–the Jeff Sessions controversy; the failure to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act and the ongoing Russia collusion investigation—the whole country (including our military leaders) were left to wonder—for nine whole minutes—what the President was about to announce.
So, President Trump has once again created chaos emanating from the White House and in the process, Trump’s War has positioned another target on a whole segment of the American people. We are called to earnestly resist this continuing strategy to divide us.