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Trump's transgender ban: Another time to resist


The big news out of Washington last week was the health-care vote. But that bit of positive news shouldn't erase another big development: Trump's decision to ban transgender people from military service.

It's not surprising that Trump has jettisoned yet another vulnerable group. He tosses aside anybody who gets in the way of something he wants – or can serve as a hate-magnet for his political base.

I'm reminded again of the conclusion by the New York Times' David Brooks, that Trump and his family are amoral. When Trump sent out his early-morning tweets, he cited concerns over "disruption" in the service and the "tremendous" cost of gender-transition services. But I don't think he based his decision on cost or a belief that transgender service members cause disruption. I think he simply traded them for something he wanted.

Some conservatives in Congress objected to having taxes pay for gender-transition medical services for people in the military. Those conservatives threatened to block funding for a wall on the Mexican border. Trump wants the wall. Transgender people in the military? Gone. And the next day, the House approved spending $1.6 billion to build Trump's wall.

Trump hadn't given any indication that he cares about the costs of health care in the military. (Not that he would have read about it, but the Washington Post reported that the military spends $84 million on erectile dysfunction medicines every year: "10 times the cost of annual transition-related medical care for active-duty transgender servicemembers," the Post said.)

And it's not that Trump is necessarily prejudiced against transgender people. If it were prejudice, there'd be some hope that he could change. But that involves principles, and Trump doesn't seem to have any principles other than a belief in his right to get whatever he wants. I don't think he cares about transgender people, one way or the other. He just wanted the wall.

As David Brooks wrote, in the Trump family, "there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism."

Trump's action last week is incredibly harmful to the transgender community, of course. It's harmful to everyone in the LGBTQ community, and to the fabric and collective conscience of the country. Trump may not bear any animosity toward transgender people, but plenty of Americans do. And Trump, as he has so many times, has fed their hate, encouraged it, and made it respectable.

So it was a relief, and provided a little encouragement, to see members of Congress lash out at Trump – not only Democrats, but a handful of Republicans. Iowa's Joni Ernst. Utah's Orrin Hatch. Alaska's John Sullivan.

John McCain said there is "no reason" to force out people who are able to serve, "regardless of their gender identity."

Alabama's Richard Shelby: "You ought to treat everybody fairly and give everybody a chance to serve."

North Carolina's Thom Tillis said he would have "significant objections" to singling out "a specific group of American patriots."

General Joe Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military "will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."

And, Politico reported, when Republican Representative Vicky Hartzler had tried earlier to prohibit gender-transition services for active-duty service members, 24 Republicans voted against her.

Trump may still get his way. But meager though it is, the pushback from the few Republicans is encouraging. The country has moved – a long way – from where it was only a few years ago. We still have far to go, but in this terrible age of Trump, the Republicans' reaction was both something to smile about, and something to strengthen our spine.

"Their fight is our fight," New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand e-mailed to her constituents on Thursday night.

What's tweeting out of the White House is evil, and all of us need to start calling it by name.