News & Politics

Trump’s Transgender Military Ban Is a Cruel Bluff

The president already got what he wanted.

Photo Credit: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock

When President Donald Trump hastily tweeted that transgender individuals would no longer be welcome in the United States military, he reminded the evangelicals of his base that their allegiance to his noxious presidency would be rewarded with social capital.

Neither Trump nor far-right evangelicals actually believe the transgender military ban is going to be implemented. We’ve passed the point in social history where an identity-related ban of this sort is legally viable. But evangelicals need theatrical failures of social policy to provide evidence of alleged oppression, and Trump needs to keep those evangelicals happy.

A ban on trans service persons is ridiculous on its face, because it’s almost unenforceable. There are too many ways to be transgender to list them all. Trans people live across a whole spectrum of intersecting identities.

The Trump administration's eventual memo detailing the ban was written with a six-month window of discretion for Defense Secretary James Mattis that seems designed to ensure its failure, since lawsuits are already filed to challenge the ban.

The defense secretary knows the ban is blustery foolishness and has done everything but say so. Mattis announced he won't implement the ban during his discretionary window, using the time-honored stall tactic of claiming a need for additional study. While Mattis isn't standing in the way of the ban (yet), he’s not acting like a person who believes it's going to happen either.

The question isn't so much whether the ban will fail, but how.

Our commander-in-chief doesn’t care about the answer, because the ban was always for show. This is the same Trump who held an “LGBTs for Trump” sign at a campaign rally and invited Caitlyn Jenner to use the ladies' room on his properties.

The president is the inverse of Republican politicians who hold discriminatory views and don’t want to be perceived as bigots. Trump wants to convince the public that he is a bigot so he won’t lose his base, even though he is personally indifferent to who’s getting married, adopting kids, or yes, joining the U.S. military.

Transgender service members are a pawn in Trump's game of political capital. With any luck, his disgraceful actions will result in legal findings that protect the diverse trans community from future broadsides by failing politicians who need a polling boost.

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Chris Sosa is the former Senior Editor of AlterNet. His work also appears in Mic, Salon, Care2, Huffington Post and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisSosa.