Written by Sumayyah Dawud
On Wednesday morning before heading out to run some errands, I checked my Facebook news feed only to find a headline about Trump and transgender people. To my shock and disappointment, I found that Trump had made an announcement on Twitter that all transgender people will be banned from military service. The exact words of Trump’s announcement in three separate tweets read as follows:
“After consultation 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”
While I was shocked, given how this administration has worked day and night to demonize one marginalized group after another, I was not surprised. I am a transgender Muslim woman who was assigned male at birth. I transitioned in November 2010 and converted to Islam in March 2013. Because of my intersectional identity and experience, I have faced both transphobia and Islamophobia in America. This administration with its hateful rhetoric and discriminatory policies is making life more difficult for transgender people, Muslims and numerous other marginalized groups.
These tweets are transphobic in ways that go far beyond their impacts on transgender service members. It tells us that we are a “burden” and a “disruption” and therefore cannot be trusted to help achieve “victory.” It also implies we are weak. Transgender people endure being ostracized from their families, face homelessness, discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations, and are at risk of violence simply for leaving our homes. We face hardships and challenges that Trump and his associates will never face and cannot even fathom. We face these difficulties every day simply for being ourselves rather than trying to fit into the black-and-white world of gender and transmisogyny that Trump promotes. We are routinely denied health care because of ignorance that tells us that we aren’t real, aren’t legitimate and therefore aren’t worthy of care.
Trump mentioned the “tremendous medical costs” that we allegedly bring but, in reality, don’t. It has been demonstrated time and time again that including insurance coverage for transgender-related treatment has very little impact on group insurance costs as a whole. According to an article published by the Arizona Republic, “Military spends five times more on Viagra than on transgender troops” and according to another, “Trump’s Mar-a-Lago trips cost more than trans soldiers’ health care.” Furthermore, many private employers already offer transgender health care and have inclusive nondiscrimination policies that contribute to a diverse workplace, not a disruptive one. What is also missing from Trump’s tweets is that not all transgender people need transition-related treatment. Yet regardless of this fact, he stated that all transgender people will be barred “in any capacity.”
Trump’s transgender ban was preceded by his Muslim ban. On January 27th, Trump set off a firestorm of lawsuits and protests after he announced that all individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries would be denied entry to the United States. Similar to the transgender ban, Trump argued that the Muslim ban was needed to keep America safe and strong. Both of these bans accomplish the same thing: they do nothing to improve safety, ensure security or bring ‘victory’ to the United States but only further demonize already ostracized minority groups. They send a message that Muslims and transgender people are both second-class citizens who are not worthy of the same rights as other Americans.
While the transgender and Muslim bans are unjust, so is the military’s role in enforcing U.S. imperialism around the world in the name of “freedom.” That role has led to the deaths of numerous innocent Muslim civilians through “the war on terror.” I do not consider it mutually exclusive to oppose the military’s role while simultaneously defending transgender service members from discrimination.
Trump and I are both descended from immigrants. Not those he wants to ban or wall off, but those who arrived illegally from Europe. Before Trump decides who isn’t welcome to live in or serve this country, he ought to consider that he is standing on land stolen from indigenous people. Trump has never served in the armed forces and has no clue what life is like for transgender people or the immigrants he considers a safety threat. Transgender people are not unfit to serve this country, but Trump’s hateful rhetoric and discriminatory policies indicate that his administration is unfit to serve us.