Recent Comments

    Our Common Humanity

    By Dr. Marcy Adelman

    When I heard that Trump had tweeted a ban on transgender people serving in the military, I was outraged that he was once again singling out and targeting transgender people. Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed deleting LGBT elders from the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants, which drives the allocation of federal funds to needed elder services. After a successful national campaign by LGBT activists and organizations, with assistance from a bipartisan group of members of Congress, LGB elders were restored to the survey. Transgender elders were not. This was a blatant attempt by the Trump administration to single out trans elders and to deprive them of vital services and programs.

    Trump likes to play polarizing politics with himself at the center of the wheel. I don’t know if Trump believes in anything other than wealth and power. He is the dark side of the American Dream, where winning and succeeding at all cost is not a vice but a virtue. He has found a base of supporters—far-right evangelical Christians, alt-right conservatives, the disenfranchised and forgotten working poor—who have lost faith in the political leaders of our country. They will follow him so long as he continues to fire them up with passionate rhetoric. When he is struggling to meet those promises, he is most dangerous. Trump tweeted the ban on transgenders in the military within hours after the Senate failed to repeal and replace Obamacare.

    It is hard to believe that Trump cares one way or the other about transgender people. He may have tweeted the transgender ban as a distraction from his failed health care policy or from the Russian investigation or to shore up his base. Whatever the reason for the ban, what is exposed is his treatment of people, not as valuable humans but as expendable objects.

    A furious and spontaneous fire storm of protest erupted in response to Trump’s tweet. Retired transgender service people spoke in passionate and powerful support of their brothers and sister in the military. Felicia “Flames” Elizondo, a San Francisco transgender activist who served as a Navy seaman in Vietnam, wrote in a letter to President Trump: “Our pride will not be banned, and our service to this country will not be forgotten or forbidden.” (See page 15 for the full letter.)

    A group of more than 50 retired generals and admirals signed a letter proposing that such a ban would “… deprive the military of mission critical talent, and compromise the integrity of transgender troops who would be forced to live a lie, as well as non-transgender peers who would be forced to choose between reporting their comrades or disobeying policy.” (See page 16 for the full letter.)

    In a speech delivered to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Admiral Paul F. Zukunft, head of the U.S. Coast Guard, said he would not turn his back on transgender members of the Coast Guard and pledged his support. (See page 16.) Senator John McCain also defended the right of transgender people to serve in the military.

    A bi-partisan vote in the House defeated a proposal to eliminate transgender surgery funding for service members.

    SAGE in New York, Openhouse in San Francisco, Equality Florida, the Chicago Center on Halsted and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) all condemned Trump’s tweet that transgender people no longer can serve in the military. Shannon Minter, NCLR’s Legal Director wrote, “… Trump is purporting to fire 15,000 transgender service members bravely serving our country and to prevent other patriotic transgender persons from enlisting … . Like every American, transgender service members should be judged by their qualifications and performance … . Those who serve our country deserve our gratitude and respect.”

    Across the country, in Houston and Austin, Texas, and Aurora, Colorado, municipal officials responded to Trump’s tweet by encouraging transgender people to apply for positions in their police departments. In Cincinnati, the city’s first openly gay councilmember, Chris Seelback, announced, “If you are dismissed from our military because of who you are, know that you are welcome in the City of Cincinnati and our police department. Seelback continued, I am proud that transgender Americans are defending our freedom, as they have been doing for years, and decades. Transgender people are currently serving openly in our military, fighting for our freedoms that we hold so dear.”

    The outcome of these most recent attacks on transgender service members and transgender elders is yet to be determined. A new post-tweet transgender policy is currently under review by the Pentagon and the White House. Whatever the outcome of this review, you can be sure that the policy will be challenged in the courts. We are also waiting to hear the Trump administration’s response to the national advocacy campaign to keep transgender elders visible and counted. 

    Transgender activists, LGBT advocacy organizations, Republicans, Democrats, military leaders from every branch of service, municipal officials and so many others have all spoken out in defense of transgender people in the military.  This messy, uncoordinated, spontaneous response says more about who we are and what our future will look like than anything Trump ever does or tweets. We will prevail so long as we continue to reach out to each other, celebrate our common humanity, support each other, and refuse to be turned into a country of us and them.

    Marcy Adelman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in private practice, is co-founder of the non-profit organization Openhouse. She is also a leading advocate and educator in LGBT affirming dementia care and a member of the Advisory Council to the Aging and Adult Services Commission.