I never thought I’d be giving President Trump credit for anything. This time, however, I’ve got to hand it to him. The Tweeter-In-Chief has given the LGBTQ community something of precious value, something we dare not ignore, a gift that can, in its stark reality, impart to us a truly meaningful lesson. Now, before you suspend my gay card for having the temerity to praise The Donald, hear me out. I promise you this will entertain as it informs.
A couple of days ago, the Orange President was sitting in the Oval Office, trying to get Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee (the Congresspeople who decide how tax revenues get allocated) off his back. The issue, said Rep. Robert Aderholt, was “taxpayer dollars going to pay for [transitional] surgery out of the defense budget”. In other words, Aderholt and the other GOP hardliners wanted the issue of gender-reassignment procedures for transgender troops brought up for debate. During the Obama era, such medical care was green-lighted as part of that administration’s plan to open military service to transgender individuals. Ok, these are right-wingers who think the military shouldn’t have to pay for that. Fine, that’s why we have a Legislative Branch. Trump, nevertheless, decided to go nuclear and blow the debate sky-high.
Arising out of bed on Wednesday morning, Trump immediately took to Tweeting, declaring “After consulting with my Generals and military experts, the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in the US Military, in any capacity”. Invoking the “burden” of cost, and the “disruption” trans troops would cause in the armed forces, he ended his decree with a perfunctory “thank you”, as if that made it all good. In those three Tweets, he gave us something of incalculable value. Hunny. Believe that!
For decades, we in the LGBTQ community have argued about which letters should hang together in out oft-cited acronym, with some insisting that the transgender struggle wasn’t the gay and lesbian struggle. Similarly, when Philadelphia, Pennsylvania added a Black and brown stripe to the “traditional” rainbow flag last month, the outcry was swift and furious. The city was taken to task for injecting race into a symbol of our community that was already ostensibly all-inclusive.
Now comes Trump, summarily ejecting thousands of transgender soldiers, sailors, and aviators whose only wish was to defend their country, and who did, with distinction and honor. In crossing off the “T” from the roster of those eligible to serve in our military, he gave us a consistent harbinger of his plans. How much longer will it be before Trump reverses Obama again, as he has on other LGBT issues, like protections for school-age trans students, or dismantling the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP)? How soon will it be before gays and lesbians, the original “disruption” of military readiness, find themselves taken out of their barracks, off their ships, and also told they’re not fit to serve?
Meanwhile, we bicker over who among ourselves is to be included; herewith Trump gives us the answer. By attacking the transgender community so openly and blatantly, the Golfer of Pennsylvania Avenue shows us that when one group among us is targeted, all of us can end up in the crosshairs. Those who hate us for who we are, who we love, or how we express our gender, do not care which letter we use to identify ourselves. The homophobes and transphobes in the corridors of power also give not a whit what color or ethnicity we are. These hateful souls will come for us irrespective of those attributes. Every letter matters, every color matters, because all of us are at greater risk now, than at any time since the Stonewall Rebellion.
That historic event should have renewed meaning for us, in the light of Trump’s policy-by-Tweet declaration. It’s worth reiterating that there were trans people of color fighting the NYPD that fateful night, too, right alongside gays and lesbians of every description. Of course, Trump hadn’t yet risen to public prominence in those early days, but then, all of society was Donald J. Trump that night. All the LGBTQ community fought back, and changed our world in so doing. If we are to put a stop to the threat posed by the White House today, we must similarly do so together, with unity and pride, just like Storme, Marsha, Sylvia, and the whole body of L, G, B. T, and Q did one steamy June evening when they stood up and said, “enough!”
Every single letter, every color, really does matter, now more than ever.