You know that I’ve got ambivalent feelings about Trump’s executive order banning trans people from military service. Trump probably doesn’t care any more about trans soldiers than he cares about the ten sailors who were lost at sea last week when a navy ship collided with a cargo ship. (Which is to say, he does not care.) His indifference to them is like his indifference to everyone who is not actually Donald Trump, which means that he’s quite willing to harm them to bolster himself. You’ve noted The Week that it’s an effort to keep the losers in the culture wars on his team because the culture wars are the only thing he has–and, even here, he’s going to lose. This executive order, like everything Trump does, is a way to gin up rating, reassure the Religious Right that they matter to him, and exercise power over people who are less powerful than him, just like bullies do. At the same time, I don’t think anyone has the right to kill other people, and the military and warfare are generally places of oppression, not liberation, sexual or otherwise. I would like to see us offering new visions of freedom and civic duty to trans people so that military service isn’t even attractive.
But that doesn’t mean that I’m not worried about the ban.
The ban includes the Coast Guard, which is organized under the Department of Homeland Security, not the Department of Defense. Prior to the creation of Homeland Security, it was part of the Department of Transportation. During times of war, the president can transfer the assets of the Coast Guard to the Department of the Navy–and this has, indeed, been the strategy that most presidents have taken during a time of war. But, right now, the Coast Guard, while part of the military, doesn’t fight wars.
Above, members of the Coast Guard take a photo with drugs they’ve intercepted. On an average day, the Coast Guard seizes $9.2 million in drugs. Trans people can do this job without any risk to “military readiness,” so why ban them?
Now, Trump’s argument that trans service members undermine our ability to win wars is incorrect. (We don’t win wars for lots of reasons, but trans people aren’t one of them.) But if we accept that argument, including the Coast Guard in the trans ban doesn’t make sense. It’d be like banning trans people from serving in ICE or Border Patrol or FEMA or Customs or TSA or the Secret Service. All of those fall under Homeland Security, too.
And we wouldn’t ban trans people from serving in those ways, would we?
Unless, I mean, this is a larger effort to make it justifiable to get rid of trans employees for any reason. Which might just be the promise that Trump is dangling before his transphobic voters.