Transgender miscalculation

Hooray for Senate Republicans.  No, seriously.  Trump clearly just assumed he could successfully scapegoat transgender people and all the Republicans would see it as a culture war win and jump on board.  Not so fast.  The world is changing and even Senate Republicans largely seem to recognize that transgender people are… people.  From the Post:

War hero John McCain, the preeminent Republican voice on national security, took a break from battling brain cancer to send this statement: “The President’s tweet … regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter. … There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military — regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so — and should be treated as the patriots they are.”

From Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a former Army Reserve commander and the first female combat veteran elected to the Senate: “While she believes taxpayers shouldn’t cover the costs associated with a gender reassignment surgery, Americans who are qualified and can meet the standards to serve in the military should be afforded that opportunity,” spokeswoman Brook Hougesen told the Des Moines Register.

From Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is up for reelection in one of the reddest and most socially conservative states in America:

From Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who wields a lot of control over the Pentagon’s budget from his perch on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee: “You ought to treat everybody fairly and give everybody a chance to serve,” he said on CNN. In a follow-up statement to the Huntsville Times, he added: “The current policy is a big tent for people who want to serve. You’ve got to remember, our military force is a voluntary force.”

From Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.): “I would have significant objections to any proposal that calls for a specific group of American patriots currently serving in uniform to be removed from the military.” …

— The Pentagon referred all questions about Trump’s announcement to the White House, but the White House referred questions back to the Pentagon and falsely suggested that the decision had been made at the behest of the military. Because no thought was given to the details before Trump’s trio of tweets, White House incoming press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was unable to provide any clarity during her afternoon briefing. She couldn’t answer, for example, what will happen to the thousands of openly transgender troops who are already serving. A lot of lives hang in the balance, and folks whose careers could be destroyed are waiting with bated breath. But Sanders threatened to leave if reporters pressed her about it. “Guys, I really don’t have anything else to add on that topic,” she said. “As I do, I’ll keep you posted. But if those are the only questions we have, I’m going to call it a day.”

So, what happens next?  I don’t know.  But I’d actually be surprised if this policy comes to fruition.  And credit where credit is due to the Republicans willing to stand up to this.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

3 Responses to Transgender miscalculation

  1. Nicole K says:

    I am still very concerned about the Republicans fixation with gender confirmation surgery. It represents almost nothing in terms of budgetary implications, yet are important and accepted medical procedures for transgendered people. It makes me concerned that if they set a precedent in the military that these aren’t essential medical benefits private insurance companies may see an opportunity to do likewise. I’m counting on those services being covered by insurance as I will be considering them in the next year or two. I don’t see how I can complete my gender transition without insurance covering the necessary procedures. A transgender soldier would be in a similar situation. How can it be ok to say you are welcome to serve just don’t expect that you’ll be able to actually transition?

  2. Terrant says:

    To be honest, I think this was meant to be more of a distraction than policy.

    • Nicole K. says:

      I don’t. If you look at how all this transpired it is because the Freedom Caucus threatened to derail the defense appropriations bill if they didn’t include language specifically banning the military from paying for hormone therapy and gender confirmation surgery. When that didn’t fly in the House, they took their complaints to Trump. The tweet-ban was what followed.

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