Trans, immigrant bashing continues
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Amid the growing scandals and investigations swirling around the White House, President Donald Trump continues to deflect by targeting trans people and immigrants. Last Friday night, the administration released two documents detailing Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the military. The first was a memo that stated "transgender persons with a history of diagnosis of gender dysphoria - individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery - are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances." The second document, titled, "Department of Defense Report and Recommendations on Military Service by Transgender Persons," contains specific policy recommendations regarding trans individuals serving in the military, but states that the department has concluded "accommodating gender transition could impair unit readiness, undermine unit cohesion, and lead to disproportionate costs." Those are the same arguments opponents gave nearly a decade ago when the military's anti-gay "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was reviewed before it was repealed by Congress. Studies have already shown that allowing trans troops to serve openly will not affect unit cohesion or military readiness. In the meantime, the four lawsuits against his first attempt at a trans troop ban, which Trump announced via Twitter last July, are moving forward.
Much of the mainstream reporting has focused on misleading claims that the Friday documents will still allow trans troops to serve openly because the administration refers to "limited circumstances." But make no mistake, administration officials will seek to follow Trump's original order for a near-total ban of trans troops, especially as more right-wingers are headed to the administration. Trump has nominated former Tea Party Congressman and CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his new secretary of state, and conservative firebrand John Bolton as his new national security adviser; both of these men likely will push Trump to follow through on the trans troop ban.
The Friday documents represent a "categorical ban" on trans service members, LGBT advocates said. Shannon Minter, a trans man and legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, told NBC News that the policy "means you can't be transgender. This is worse than 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' in its justification."
The good news in all of this is that, for now, trans people continue to enlist and serve in the armed forces. As Minter pointed out, federal courts have issued orders saying the ban cannot be enforced, but he also noted that trans troops may face additional stigma - and that's a problem.
We hope the courts continue to see the trans troop ban for what it is: blatant discrimination that would, if enacted, prevent qualified people from serving their country.
Trump and the census
It's been clear that Trump - and his supporters - want to turn the clock back to when racial discrimination and homophobia were rife in the U.S. That era, or memories of it, informs many of Trump's decisions. Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again," has been interpreted as "Make America White Again" by his critics since before he took office. This week, the administration announced it would include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. Advocacy groups and Democratic leaders were quick to point out that this question alone will have a chilling effect on the accuracy of the count, which happens every 10 years. The problem, of course, is that immigrants will be discouraged from completing the census for fear of deportation.
"The Trump administration's decision to ask residents about citizenship in the 2020 census will make that census less accurate, result in federal funding cuts to services for Californians and inequitable electoral representation for a decade," lesbian state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and state Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) stated in a news release.
They added that using the Voting Rights Act "as a pretense to intimidate immigrants is shamelessly cynical - an undercount will worsen underrepresentation of the very communities that law was meant to protect."
Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, pointed out that the U.S. Census Bureau's "own research concluded that adding this untested question will cause depressed response rates."
That's just what the administration wants. Fewer responses mean fewer people will be counted, which will result in fewer federal dollars for vital programs. Numbers count in Washington - they justify programs, illustrate the need for certain bills, and estimates the size for a particular voting bloc. Years ago, the LGBT community fought for a question that would identify LGBT Americans. The last census, in 2010, included a question about same-sex couples, but not whether they were married, because the federal Defense of Marriage Act was still in place. Since then, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a key provision of DOMA and legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. We're unsure if and how same-sex couples will be quantified on the next census.
This week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census questionnaire. According to a news release from his office, an accurate population count of all individuals - regardless of citizenship status - is mandated every 10 years under the U.S. Constitution. Trump doesn't care about the lawsuit, or anyone else who disagrees with him. That's just another reason to flip Congress to Democratic control in the midterms.