On Wednesday night, LGBTQ people flocked to the White House to protest Donald Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from serving openly in the U.S. military.
Earlier in the day, Trump had unleashed a series of tweets saying that the United States would not allow transgender individuals to “serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” claiming they would serve as a distraction and that the cost of transgender-related medical care would be too burdensome.
Outraged protesters stood outside the White House carrying signs and chanting slogans such as “15,000, thank you for your service!” “Trans Lives Matter!” and “They fought for us, we’ll fight for them!”
“I was really sick to my stomach,” says 30-year-old Racheal Deamer of Tyler, Texas, who carried a small banner reading, “Dump Trump! Boy, Bye!” “[T]hat motherfucker couldn’t even serve a day in his life, and he wants to tell other people about whether they should serve? He couldn’t even do military school, and he wants to tell people about the Army?”
“I think I was just in shock when I heard about it, especially that it came in the form of a tweet,” says Jennifer Watkins, 48, of Alexandria. “And then I’m automatically questioning, like, ‘Can he make policy with a tweet?’ It almost seems like he can, or at least get people to take action based on that tweet.”
Watkins, the partner of Amanda Simpson, the first transgender Deputy Secretary of Defense, expects the White House to carry out the ban, breaking the promises made to the estimated 15,000 transgender service members who have been allowed to serve openly since July last year.
Watkins, and many others who were in attendance, also believe that Trump announced the policy to divert attention from the GOP’s imploding healthcare battle, as well as the Russia scandal that continues to shadow his presidency.
“I think this is because his health care bill is falling apart, and his and the Republican party’s commitment to repeal and replace [the Affordable Care Act] is falling apart, so he’s throwing this out there to appease his right-wing base,” Watkins says. “It probably comes from advisors whispering in his ear, but, I mean, have a backbone.”
Sheren R., 59, of Annapolis, said: “This is a betrayal. A year ago, the Department of Defense said trans people are allowed to live openly and express themselves, and so thousands of them did. And on the whim of the Commander-in-Chief, that goes away.
“Now, those who had the courage to come out and represent who they were, are now going to be discharged. I’d like to know, who’s going to replace them? I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be Eric, Don Jr., or Ivanka.”
Sheren is waiting for the day Republicans in Congress finally oppose the president when he overreaches or suggests policies that are bad for the country. She also points out that this runs counter to his campaign promise that he’d be an ally to the LGBTQ community.
“I grew up in New York, and I know a con-artist when I see one. So it doesn’t surprise me that he’d say one thing and do another, only to advance his own personal agenda,” she says. “This is just another bone he can throw to his conservative Christian fanatics.”
Charger Stone, a 37-year-old veteran of the Marine Corps from Fort Washington, Md., carried a sign reading “Gay vet supporting trans rights.” Stone knows all too well how it feels to be unwanted in the military. He was forced to leave of his own accord after being outed while the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was in place.
“It’s bullshit,” he says of the ban. “Why do we have to keep playing this game? First it was black vs. white, then it was whether we’re going to allow women. It just seems we’re on the wrong side of equality. Why do we do this all the time?”
Stone also rejects Trump’s justification of the ban by citing the costs of medical care.
“If you’re taking hormones, it’s just pills, he says. “There’s so many people that are already in the Marine Corps that have to rely on certain pills anyway…. As far as top surgery or bottom surgery, how is that different from any surgery any other member would need?”
Asked about Trump’s pledge to be an ally to the LGBTQ community, Stone scoffs.
“Nothing he has ever said in support of our LGBT community can be believed,” says Stone. “Even though he said that he was going to support us and to try to be an ally, ever since he was sworn in, it’s been nothing but stuff against us.”
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