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Trump's Attack on Transgender Americans

Aug. 1, 2017
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With the offhanded whim of a couple tweets, President Donald Trump hastily announced putting a hateful and discriminatory policy in place at the largest employer in our country.

Trump’s shameful decision to ban transgender Americans from serving in any capacity in the U.S. military tells more than a million Americans that they are not equal or valued. And while Trump vowed to fight for the LGBTQ community during the election, he certainly showed that promise to be a pants-on-fire lie.

Trump’s ban—an actual threat to our freedom and beliefs—has been condemned by Republicans and Democrats, alike. He is ripping away freedom from people who literally put their lives on the line for our freedom. 

I have the honor of representing retired Col. Sheri Swokowski, who spent 34 years in the U.S. Army serving her country. In 2004, as a lead instructor at the Army’s Force Management School, she transitioned from male to female, and when she returned to work, she was told they had already hired her replacement. In a Washington Post opinion column on Thursday, Swokowski wrote: 

“Thousands of patriotic transgender Americans already put their lives on the line every day to keep our country free. We’ve been doing that since the 1700s … I can’t imagine what my fellow trans service members are feeling today. I know transgender people are going to get up tomorrow, put their uniform on and defend their country—just like they do every day—but I also know they’re going to be wondering if the commander in chief is really looking out for their best interests.”

Wondering if the commander in chief is really looking out for our best interests is a thought too many of us have had too often over the past six months.

Trump clumsily attempted to justify this most recent Twitter-order by saying that transgender troops are costly and disruptive. Transgender military personnel are neither costly nor disruptive, but those words do, in fact, accurately describe Trump’s first six months as president. The reasons for this erratic policy shift are transparent: Trump is desperately trying to distract the public from his epic failures on healthcare, jobs and infrastructure. The kitchen-table-type issues most of us really worry about are things he has failed to address.

Further, allowing transgender Americans to serve openly in the military was a policy of the Barack Obama administration, and Trump has always resented our 44th president. This bitterness can only have gotten worse now that Trump has realized being president is harder than he thought. Don’t for a minute feel sorry for this multiple-time draft dodger who never had the courage to serve in the military and has no credibility deciding who is fit to serve. But it had to have stung a little bit the morning after his ban, when his hometown newspaper summed up his presidency with the all-caps headline, “COMMANDER IN HATE.” 

The U.S. Congress recently took a stand against this particular act of hatred. An amendment proposed to the annual defense policy bill that would have blocked the Pentagon from offering gender transition therapies to active duty service members was voted down, with 24 Republicans joining all of the Democrats to defeat it. Democrats hope Republicans will join them in adding budgetary language refusing to spend any money implementing or enforcing this hateful ban. 

If some Republicans continue to stand with Democrats against the discrimination and hatred that grips the executive branch, maybe congress can actually move forward on core economic issues with bipartisan cooperation, and let the president get lost in his Tweetstorms of hate. 

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) is co-chair of the House Equality Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Issue of the Week presents the Shepherd Express opinion on an important issue in the news. It is usually written by the Shepherd’s editor, but at times we invite someone outside of the paper who is either working in the field or has some other level of expertise.


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