Here We Go Again: Trump vs. Transgender Soldiers

I spent 11 years at Quaker House in Fayetteville NC, near Fort Bragg, one of the largest U.S. military bases.
 
Most of my work there, directly or indirectly, was aimed at helping people get out of the Military. And I don’t regret a minute of it. 
 
But there was an exception: we also worked to end “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” [DADT] to let LGBT GIs stay in. 

 

We did that because we were for equality & justice, not to boost recruitment. Those who choose to enlist face enough risks without having to endure discrimination and persecution by their own ranks or superiors.

When DADT was repealed in September 2011, we produced a one-minute video to mark the occasion. It’s worth a look today:
 
 (And note: “Army Strong” was a recruiting slogan from several years ago.)
Now it looks like that struggle is suddenly back, risen zombie-like from its well-earned grave.
 
Breaking: Trump bans transgender people from serving in U.S. military ‘in any capacity'”
 
USA Today: “It’s unclear how the announcement will affect the estimated 6,000 transgender troops who are already in the military. Under the policy announced in July 2016, those troops were allowed to serve openly. Prior to that the military discharged them for medical reasons.
It’s also unclear whether a series of tweets constitute a presidential directive, and whether Trump must sign documents to make the new policy effective.”
I’m retired  from Quaker House now, so I don’t set their agenda. But I sure hope the Board & their incoming new Director, Kindra Bradley,  will want to consider taking up that struggle again.
 
Why? Seems simple enough to me: If TG soldiers are out today, it takes no genius to figure out who’s next: lesbians & gays.
 
The religious right, which is still  very deeply entrenched in the chaplain corps and at high levels in the military, hated the DADT repeal, and sees an anti-Trans move as the door opening to a full rollback.
 
Their civilian allies, who are possessed by a kind of  transphobi-mania, are all in for this. Here are some of them, for whom this policy is the down payment  on their hopes of “cleansing” the military of LGBTs.
 
One is the Chaplain Alliance for “Religious Liberty,” [CARL] a group which was organized in the losing effort to preserve “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” and has been biding its time for a push to bring it back. [NOTE: I put quotes around “religious Liberty” in their name,
because they & their ilk have turned the phrase into a code word for their theocratic agenda, which, while obsessed with homo- and transphobia, has other discriminatory goals too, which are discussed elsewhere]Here’s the nitty gritty from their purpose statement.
 
[Yeah, it’s kind of long, but I think it behooves those who consider themselves allies on this struggle to get familiar with it; these folks are serious & determined]:

 

E. Scope. The Chaplain Alliance will:
(1) Assist chaplains as they provide religious support to their constituents.


(2) Serve as a common point of reference, information and education exposing the rising tide of threats to religious liberty. This includes:
(a) attempts to restrict the ability of service personnel and chaplains to freely share their faith, acknowledge the Judeo-Christian tradition and orthodox Christian doctrines, and proclaim the truth of the gospel;
(b) the inherent dangers and destructive effects of providing official approval of and protection for deviant lifestyles and behaviors which Scripture and orthodox Christian tradition and teaching condemn; and
(c) other restrictions on religious liberty.
(3) Be a focal point for reports related to religious suppression, threats, discrimination, and other problems within the Armed Forces and other institutions that result in diminished religious liberties for those whom chaplains serve, and analyzing and reporting the same to its members, Congress, and the public;
(4) Inform the public, the community of faith and the government on the constitutional need for chaplains and their role in developing a strong sense of morality in our military, governmental and other social institutions as a necessary predicate to liberty and the rule of law;
(5) Communicate the principle that what happens in the military frequently causes consequences in civilian life.

 Two others are the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a civilian group that has been the guiding spirit behind anti-trans”bathroom bills” & laws in many states, most notoriously North Carolina.
 
And then there’s the Family Research Council [FRC], a major center of homo- and transphobic agitation, as detailed by a major statement in June from its president, Tony Perkins, on his marathon lobbying to stop implementation of former president Obama’s directive for the military to include transgender troops.  As he put it,
“. . . one of the most-watched pieces of the NDAA[National defense Authorization Act markup in the House] had nothing to do with Apache helicopters or troop pay. But, as three of the service chiefs will tell you, it’s just as important to the military’s success: rolling back Obama’s radical social policy. With just two days to go until the DOD’s transgender policy takes effect, Republicans demanded the Pentagon act. And fast.”
“Act” to stop it,  that is.
Another of Perkins’s FRC apparatchiks is retired Special Forces commander General Jerry Boykin, who went after Defense Secretary James Mattis in Breitbart:
 

“On June 30, 2016, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that transgender service members would no longer be discharged from military service solely for being transgendered. Later, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced that as of July 1, 2017, transgender recruits would be accepted into the military. The DOD took these steps even though transgender personnel are likely to need medical, surgical, and psychological care that undermines their readiness for battle by rendering them non-deployable. . . . Unfortunately, the implementation of President Obama’s transgender policies did not consider the impact that “transitioning” personnel would have on military readiness and combat effectiveness. . . . These policies will ultimately undermine recruitment and retention.”

There are other groups in this heavyweight lobbying phalanx, especially fundamentalist churches.  On the other side, their main stumbling block to this is a stubborn former Air Force lawyer and Academy graduate, Mikey Weinstein and his Military Religious Freedom Foundation. [MRFF]
MRFF has a fascinating, scary history, which we can only allude to here: Weinstein started it after his son, who followed him to the Air Force Academy, nearly got kicked out for resisting coercive, command-supported fundamentalist proselytizing by older “Christian” cadets who were, in the bargain, vehemently anti-semitic. [More on this here.]
 
Mikey Weinstein until then had been a loyal, even fanatical Air Force Academy alum, and a registered Republican; but when he looked into his son’s case he was stunned to discover a deeply-entrenched crusading fundamentalist network and infrastructure in all corners of the military, which was trampling on the First Amendment at every opportunity, pushing its theocratic notions on often-unwilling soldiers and sailors. And as much as Weinstein loved his air Force alma mater, he loved the Constitution and the First Amendment (freedom OF and freedom FROM religion) more.
Weinstein  [at right] has been fighting back ever since against this theocratic “deep state” within the military, fending off frequent death threats along the way.
                                            The theocrats’ compulsive neurosis about LGBTs in the military has made this struggle a major part of MRFF’s agenda. The action from the White House today will likely keep it there. 
Banning TG folks from the military is the first big chunk of red meat  thrown to the sex-phobic theocratic right by the Liar-in-Chief; it will only make them hungrier for more and bigger chunks.
Can Weinstein & MRFF get backup from an activist, interreligious  coalition to face them down?
They could. They should. Now we’ll find out.
What about it, Quaker House?
 

2 thoughts on “Here We Go Again: Trump vs. Transgender Soldiers”

  1. Chuck, I support this post . . . AND I have a question. I watched the short video celebrating the end of DADT. The underlying message seems to be, “This makes the army stronger.” I think that’s likely true, so I’m not questioning the validity of the message, but rather the intent of it. Who is it addressed to, and apart from that, is a stronger army the reason to celebrate the end of DADT? Is a stronger army the goal/message of Quaker House? There must have been some discussion about this — can you say more?

    1. Chel– Thee raises an apt question, and points up a dated, “inside” visual joke in the video.
      When we made it, the Army’s new recruiting slogan was: “There’s strong. And there’s Army strong.” Every time I saw it I had to giggle and stifle the snark, not least because the Army in 2011 was in dreadful shape internally (all the big hats at the Pentagon agreed with this verdict, and so did our casework at Quaker House). Thus we incorporated a play on all this into the video. Our use of “stronger” here is meant to imply an organization that had become more in tune with human and American values, rather than one achieving greater “lethality” (another bit of Army jargon).
      Of course, that recruiting slogan is long gone, and I couldn’t tell you how the latest one goes. But that’s our explanation then.

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