Metro Weekly

LGBTQ activists blast Trump’s record on transgender issues following SOTU Address

President's critics pan his proposed trans military ban and actions on HIV/AIDS prevention efforts

President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address – Photo: C-SPAN

Several LGBTQ groups unleashed on President Trump following his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night, blasting him for his anti-LGBTQ record over his past two years as president.

“For more than two years, Donald Trump and Mike Pence have made attacking LGBTQ people and other marginalized communities a top priority of their administration,” Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement. “From undermining protections for transgender youth, to threatening to deport Dreamers, to attempting to ban transgender service members from the military, to working to eviscerate health care coverage for those most vulnerable — this is a presidency rooted in prejudice and fear.”

But Griffin expressed hope that the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives would serve as an obstacle to Trump’s most damaging impulses when it comes to LGBTQ issues.

Chief among the criticisms of the president’s speech — and the underlying policies he promoted in it — was that, even while praising veterans and honoring former World War II soldiers, the president failed to acknowledge several transgender service members in attendance.

The transgender members had been invited to the State of the Union by Democratic lawmakers in protest of the Trump administration’s push for a ban most transgender people from serving in the Armed Forces.

LGBTQ military organizations were the harshest on the president, pointing out the hypocrisy of praising veterans while simultaneously seeking to expel transgender service members who are defending the country.

“Right now, thousands of highly trained, patriotic transgender Americans are bravely and honorably serving our nation around the world in every branch of the military,” Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, said in a statement. “The shameful steps Donald Trump and Mike Pence have undertaken in order to erase them and ban them from military service are truly unconscionable. Like the far majority of Americans, we believe any qualified American should be able to serve, and AMPA is proud to be an organizational plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging Trump’s trans military ban in court.”

“For the past two-and-a-half years, thousands of qualified transgender individuals have been serving openly and our nation’s military services are better not in spite of their authentic service, but because of it,” OutServe-SLDN Executive Director Andy Blevins added. “The Trump-Pence administration’s indefensible desire to institute their wanting and discriminatory practices is disappointing — our siblings-in-arms deserve better.”

Other transgender individuals were critical of other aspects of the Trump presidency, whether it was is immigration policies, his efforts to undercut HIV/AIDS prevention efforts (despite calling for an end to the epidemic by 2030 in his speech), or his support for religious exemptions that would make it legal to discriminate against LGBTQ individuals.

“I was raised to be hardworking and to help others, but my ambitions are not possible under an administration that denies me a chance to achieve my dreams and further my education,” said Edgar, an LGBTQ Dreamer and recent college graduate who bemoaned the lack of a deal for undocumented individuals brought to this country as children. “My parents came to this country to provide me with more opportunities and a better life. As a college-educated and LGBTQ dreamer, I call the United States my home. I am not the exception. I represent a community that believes that we all deserve the right to be who we are, to achieve our dreams and also to serve our country.”

Blossom Brown – Photo: Human Rights Campaign.

Aryah Lester, the deputy director of Transgender Strategy Center, denounced Trump administration actions that she believes have put a target on transgender people and other vulnerable groups.

“Today’s political climate has made it ever more dangerous to be a social outlier trying to navigate regular life. LGB and transgender persons, undocumented immigrants, those dependent on state or federal programs and employment: all of us are suspect to the whims of those who aim to placate the ignorance of voters,” Lester said in a statement.

Blossom Brown, a transgender activist who is living with HIV, noted that the Trump administration’s attacks on Medicaid expansion, the Affordable Care Act, as well as nondiscrimination provisions for transgender people contained within it, and recent proposed changes to antiretrovirals under Medicare Part D all serve to undermine the president’s stated goal of ending the HIV epidemic in 12 years.

“Transgender people and people living with HIV deserve a government that has our backs,” Brown said. “No real public health agenda can ever include dangerous cuts or discrimination against those who need services the most.”

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis also criticized Trump via a series of tweets, arguing that the president has “slashed funding for HIV and AIDS research, shuttered research clinics, and fired the White House Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS — stalling the hard-fought effort to find a cure.”

Ellis also criticized recent discharges of HIV-positive military members, the closure of an HIV research facility because of its use of fetal tissue as part of its research into a cure for HIV/AIDS, his failure to acknowledge or mention the impact of HIV/AIDS on the LGBTQ community, and a push by the Department of Health and Human Services for a rule that would allow health care workers to refuse to treat LGBTQ people or people living with HIV. 

Ellis tweeted: “President Trump once again presented a broad strokes narrative that people with HIV and AIDS, including LGBTQ Americans, simply can’t trust.”

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