In a memo sent from his newly named “Department of Anything-But-Justice” to US attorneys, department heads, and federal agencies, Trump’s Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, reversed an Obama-era policy that protected trans employees from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sessions made clear that his department would no longer interpret gender protections in Title VII to include gender identity and expression.
In a related breaking story, Session also delivered his guidance that will severely limit the Affordable Care Act’s insurance mandate for contraception when it goes against employers’ religious or moral beliefs. Included in the memo, Sessions ordered officials to:
…effective immediately, incorporate the interpretative guidance in litigation strategy and arguments, operations, grant administration, and all other aspects of the Department’s work, keeping in mind the President’s declaration that ‘[i]t shall be the policy of the executive branch to vigorously enforce Federal law’s robust protections for religious freedom’.”
Since Trump’s inauguration, the White House website has removed reference to LGBT issues and policies from the previous administration, and reversed an Obama-era executive order permitting trans students to use school facilities most closely aligning with their gender identities.
Recently, as the Trump administration promoted its “American Heroes Week,” the alleged Commander-in-Chief let it be known in a torrential three-tweet series that he does not include trans people in the category of American heroes, especially those currently and previously serving in the U.S. military.
“After consideration with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow… Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. 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. Thank you.”
Trump’s official policy-by-tweet contradicts Department of Defense regulations released June 30, 2016 under Defense Secretary Ash Carter permitting trans people to join and openly serve their country. At that time, the United States added its name to an ever-increasing list of 19 other nations welcoming trans people into their military ranks, with the Netherlands as the first as far back as 1973. A sampling of others include Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and Spain.
A Rand study fully debunks the Liar-in-Chief’s assertion of some sort of burdensome “tremendous medical costs” expended on trans servicemembers. Of the Pentagon’s annual military health care budget of $6.28 billion, an estimated relatively minuscule $2.4 – 8.4 million accounts for transition-related health care costs.
In addition, Rand found that merely 25 – 130 active-component trans military personnel have deployment restrictions due to transition-related medical treatments. In comparison, 50,000 active-duty soldiers in one single branch, the Army, cannot deploy for medical and other reasons.
It should be crystal clear to everyone that Trump’s motive in declaring war on an entire category of people has nothing to do with concerns over improving military readiness, or ending discrimination in schools and in the workplace. It has nothing to do with health care costs. It has nothing to do with some alleged and unspecific “disruption,” and it certainly has nothing to do with “religious freedom.”
Trump’s actions are intended to harden his appeal to his base by targeting scapegoats for his failed policies and increasingly failed presidency.
The origin of the scapegoat dates to the Book of Leviticus in the Hebrew Bible (16:20-22). On the Day of Atonement, a live goat was selected by lottery. The high priest placed both hands on the goat’s head and confessed over it the sins of the people. In this way, the sins were symbolically transferred to the animal, which was then cast out into the wilderness. This process thus purged the people, for a time, of their feelings of guilt.
Researchers have proposed several conditions necessary for specific people or groups to be singled out as scapegoats in contemporary society. They found first, that prejudice and negative stereotyping must already exist against the particular group(s) before the scapegoating commences. Also, the group(s) in question must appear to be too weak to fight back successfully when attacked. In addition, the society must already sanction the scapegoating through its own institutional structures.
Trump’s not-so-surprising assaults on trans people has the heavy thump print of Vice President Pence who, in his first congressional campaign in 2000, argued for public funding of so-called conversion therapy for LGBTQ people. On his website at the time, his disdain for same-sex attractions and sexuality stands out:
Congress should support the reauthorization of the Ryan White Care Act only after completion of an audit to ensure that federal dollars were no longer being given to organizations that celebrate and encourage the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus. Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior.”
Pence opposes marriage equality and LGBTQ non-discrimination protections, and helped to pass the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The state was forced to amend the law after experiencing serious political and financial push back.
Donald Trump, by choosing Mike Pence, has added LGBTQ people to his already extensive list of scapegoated “others,” which includes Mexicans and all Central and South American-heritage people, Muslims, people with disabilities, women, and NFL players taking a knee in solidarity to protest police attacks on black and brown people.
By choosing Mike Pence, Trump has double-downed in his attempts to divide and conquer the electorate by instilling fear in promising the bigoted the “freedom to discriminate” without the threat of prosecution.
Members of the trans community often suffer the consequences of other truth tellers of the past. Nearly every 2–3 days, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. The vast majority of murders are of trans women of color.
The Trump administration’s latest assault on trans people will prove to be a total failure by limiting the rights of trans people in the schools and in the workplace, and in limiting the service by talented and committed people who would have joined the ranks of the military, many who held or could have potentially held critical positions, for example, as language interpreters and other military specialists.
We must all stand up and be counted against the scurrilous attacks perpetrated by the Trump administration. We must not permit the policymakers, the majority presumably heterosexual and largely cisgender male, to dictate policy whether trans employees and students are protected against discrimination and whether trans servicemembers are granted permission to openly serve their country.
This makes about as much sense as allowing men to determine whether women get the vote or whether women maintain control over their reproductive freedoms.