Quite unexpectedly this week, Donald Trump, using his Twitter account, banned transgender people from serving in the military. The reason given for this ban was that the military did not have the financial means to support trans people among its ranks, suggesting in the same breath that their presence was “disruptive.” The current U.S. president surprised much of the world with this public statement since, during his campaign, he had been rather sympathetic toward the LGBTQ community as he tried to win the votes of this specific electoral group. In particular, we recall the photo where he wielded the rainbow flag, as well as his incendiary statements about his rival at the time, Hillary Clinton, in connection with LGBTQ issues. It is thus easy to ask: why this about-face, and why now?
On the one hand, this decision follows an endless political debate at the Capitol to determine whether it is up to taxpayers to pay for the transition of trans people that work in the military (incidentally to military services via a program estimated at millions of dollars). By making the decision to ban trans people from the armed forces, Trump quickly ended that debate.
There is no longer any need to discuss the program or the source of funding if these people simply cannot serve any longer in the military. It goes without saying that the commander in chief of the U.S. military (Donald Trump) has not gotten us accustomed to many gray areas since the beginning of his term. On the other hand, with the difficulties (not to say the crushing failure) of “Trumpcare” and his inability to obtain strong support in the Senate for his health care reform, Trump has fallen back on one of the only powers that lies within the executive branch and that does not require him to seek support from the other branches of government: the military. In doing so, he can quickly and easily please a fringe of his electorate base, who until now has been disappointed by the president’s inability to respect his most important electoral commitment: the replacement of former President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Unfortunately for Trump, politics is not always a zero sum game. This type of strategic calculus (if it is one) comes with disastrous symbolic implications for the trans community and extends beyond American borders. The president of the United States, in a few words, legitimized hatred toward a part of his own population, and excluded citizens on the basis of their non-conformity to their assigned “biological” gender.
This week, Trump has created distress and fear among many trans people across the country, both within and outside of the military. He has fostered hatred, he has propagated ignorance (there’s no other explanation for the incendiary term “disruption”), he has, once again, demonstrated with great vehemence his lack of sensitivity toward anyone who doesn’t resemble him. However, this political strategy overlooks a key element drawn from the lessons of history: Trump may hold the power, but it is the LGBTQ community that has the courage. If he turns these first weapons into policy, the LGBTQ community will not be facing its first battle. Unlike Trump, their potential gain is not positioning on the political chessboard; rather, it’s the very principle of inclusion that they will be defending. And when it comes to principles, it’s well known, the current U.S. president is already defeated.