By Ollie Gratzinger | Opinions Editor
Well, folks, Trump is back at it again.
This time, he reawakened last summer’s woes surrounding the government’s attempts to ban transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. military. Not only that, but he made his announcement in the week leading up to the International Transgender Day of Visibility, a day aimed at celebrating trans people and acknowledging the discrimination they face in their day-to-day lives.
So, what’s his reasoning?
According to CNBC News, the White House claimed that “retaining troops with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria … presents a considerable risk to military effectiveness and lethality.”
First of all, I’d like to think that the soldiers overseas have more important things to worry about than what’s in their comrades’ pants. If not, maybe it would be a good idea to address that elephant in the barracks rather than blaming transgender people for the institutional problems that are clearly beyond their control.
Secondly, an argument exists that the military shouldn’t have to pay the insurance cost of transgender service members’ hormone treatments and surgeries. Not only is the military budget for the U.S. well over $500 billion, but the cost of Hormone Replacement Therapy often less than $100 per month.
It just doesn’t make much sense that rather than focusing on one of America’s ample problems, the Trump Administration keeps turning its focus to one of the nation’s marginalized groups. Consider this: In Illinois, Holocaust denier and Nazi Arthur Jones won the state’s GOP Congressional Primary.
A flier circulated around the U.S. and the U.K. declared April 3 to be “Punish a Muslim Day,” offering an award of “100 points” to anybody who attacks a Muslim. America has seen nearly 20 mass shootings this year alone, and we’ve barely dipped into the fourth month. Unarmed black men are gunned down in their backyards by the exact people tasked with “protecting and serving” their communities. Driving through rural neighborhoods, one is bound to see rows and rows of Confederate flags fluttering in the wind. The Butler County Fair, just north of the city, is often home to anti-Semitic iconography, complete with ample swastika tattoos and skinheads galore. According to Trump, however, transgender folks are the ones putting this country at risk.
America puts itself, its integrity and its international image at risk every day that it allows in hatred and pushes out the prospect of coexistence. The U.S. is a country built on the backs of immigrants and slaves, and yet, the people in positions of power — often wealthy, heterosexual white men — still feel threatened by the idea of celebrating diversity and sharing the limelight. Other countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Israel, the U.K., France, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Australia, Austria, Belgium and more allow transgender citizens to serve, and it isn’t a new thing. The Netherlands has allowed trans service members since 1974. The U.S. still had sodomy laws until 2003. Let that sink in.
Before you start with the “If you care so much why aren’t you in the military?” nonsense, let me say, that isn’t the point. It isn’t about serving in the military, necessarily. It’s about having the option to serve — the same option extended to cisgender citizens — should one wish to do so. It’s a matter of rights versus restrictions, equality versus exclusion.
We tempt a dangerous beast when we begin to limit the privileges of a group based on demographics. Trump’s proposal to bar trans individuals from serving only furthers preexisting bigotries against the community in the United States. Last year saw the highest number of transgender individuals killed in hate-related incidents, with 28 people losing their lives to bigots. The Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest LGBT advocacy groups in the nation, reports that since the election of Donald Trump, the increase in anti-LGBT rhetoric has been notable. With policies like his proposed transgender military ban, it’s easy to see why.
Trump is taking the U.S. strides backward. The only people benefiting from his politics are the people that have always been in positions of societal privilege: The wealthy, white and heterosexual elite. The one percent. The people who have never been touched by systemic oppression or state-sanctioned bigotry.
It’s time that Trump gets off the golf course and into the Oval Office, where he ought to assume the responsibility of president to all citizens, not only the privileged upper class. If he can’t do that, he ought to get out of Washington and make room for someone who can.