Donald Trump dropped a military bombshell Wednesday and it was a dud. He tweeted that the United States would no longer allow transgender persons to serve in the military. As with most Trump policies, it appeared on its face to be a unilateral decision — conceived in Trump’s crazy mind and executed via social media — despite Trump’s claim that he had “consulted with my Generals [sic] and military experts.” (N.B. the use of the possessive and capitalization).
After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
….Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
The early morning tweet announced a significant policy shift worthy of a press conference and preliminary notice to military personnel. However, like all tweets Trump, the musings of a lunatic arrived in two parts separated by eight long minutes for military commanders. He posted the first part of his “TransBan” at 5:55 a.m. followed by a long silence that left the armed services wondering if it was time to go on alert or not.
When Grandpa Trump finally completed his morning movement and got around to posting the second portion of his policy announcement, the wave of public backlash began pounding the White House. In addition to the atrociously bigoted and solely political motivation behind Trump’s latest ban, none of his staff had notice of the plan, or knew how the military would implement it. So sudden was Trump’s announcement, that when pressed about the details of the ban during an afternoon briefing, White House propaganda chief Sarah Huckabee Sanders threatened to terminate the conference.
The United States has a long history of building unified fighting units from a heterogeneous population of mixed ethnic backgrounds, races, and religions. Drawing on native citizens and immigrant populations without bias, drafts and necessity have often thrown together unlikely partners on the battlefields. While opponents of gender inclusion in the military draw a distinction between volunteer service enlistment of LGBTQ individuals and those “questionable” members pressed into service, recent history proves their arguments weak and unsupported.
Military leaders have typically accommodated diversity in the ranks for two primary reasons. First, as a matter of sheer numbers, they have often broadened their inclusion. Secondly, as a subordinate of the federal government, the military historically has acknowledged trends in social change and the need for its personnel to reflect accurately the diversity of the nation — both domestically and in the face of enemy propagandists and detractors. The military has a mixed mission, but does sometimes aid in the accomplishment of domestic public policy through its actions.
With each military involvement America faced, the armed forced evolved. During the Civil War, regional and ethnic diversity germinated along with reliance on a wide-ranging immigrant population. Religious pluralism among troops emerged as a foundational principle of the military moving forward — with Union forces overcoming public prejudice to incorporate Jewish chaplains in its ranks.
When President Woodrow Wilson signed the Selective Draft Act in 1917, mandatory conscription presented U.S. military forces with the challenge of immigrant populations and Native American enlistment. Despite widespread anti-immigrant sentiment and Native American prejudice, the American troops made significant contributions to fighting in World War I and proved the strength and value of a diverse military force.
Through the latter half of the 20th century, the Pentagon faced growing tension over racial inclusion in the military and gender equality. Time and again, however, the diverse service members of the U.S. military branches demonstrated tenacity, dedication, and valor in the face of adversity. This holds equally true for trans personnel who have served in recent conflicts in the Middle East.
That trans troops have faced the enemy and emerged as heroes — as in the case of Navy SEAL Kristin Beck — defines, without question, the legitimacy of gender minorities to serve their nation. As a marginalized segment of America’s population, it is more important now, than ever, that these citizens be allowed to contribute as fighters to increase their legitimacy socially.
Sociologist Morris Janowitz wrote that, “Participation in the national army has been an integral aspect of the normative definition of citizenship.” In denying trans persons the opportunity to serve and fulfill their legitimate role in society, Trump is negating the citizenship of an entire class of people — for no other reason than his own narrow-minded ignorance and bigoted fears.
As citizens, trans individuals are the uncontested equals to every other person in America — regardless of sex, orientation, color, religion, or ethnicity. They are us. Every American must be afforded, without condition or limitation, every right, privilege, and honor available. Until that happens, Donald Trump is not only an Apprentice President; he is president of nothing, because when you negate even one citizen, you negate us all.