Imagine being punched by someone, who as they hit you is also saying, “You know, I really like you as a person. Let’s get a drink after this.”
President Trump’s prejudice toward LGBT people is, much like his pronouncements on many matters, puzzling. Or puzzlingly framed, at least. It began with an upside-down rainbow flag at a rally, has progressed through clear expressions of policy hostility in the first months of his presidency, and yet still comes laced with proclamations of kinship.
Asked about his proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military, Trump said Thursday: “I have great respect for the community. I think I’ve had great support, or I’ve had great support from that community. I got a lot of votes. But the transgender, the military’s working on it now. It’s been a very difficult situation and I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it. As you know, it’s been a very complicated issue for the military, it’s been a very confusing issue for the military, and I think I’m doing the military a great favor.”
First, you can’t claim to have “great respect” for a community you are systematically attacking and diminishing. If you are intent on denying trans people the right to serve in the military that signifies a total lack of respect, not just for them but for their right to be equal to everyone else.
On the matter of his supposed support from the trans community, Trump must be privy to statistics nobody else has seen.
According to NBC News exit poll statistics, only 14 percent of LGBT people voted for Trump in the presidential election, compared to 78 percent for Hillary Clinton. On what is he basing his claim of “great support” from the trans community? Caitlyn Jenner? She just apologized after being caught wearing a Make America Great Again hat.
Last month, just 18 people turned up at a pro-Trump LGBT rally in Washington.
The word salad gets even more scrambled with Trump describing, “the transgender, the military’s working on it now.” Not only doesn’t this make grammatical sense, its lack of grammatical sense well symbolizes someone who doesn’t see transgender people or transgender service personnel as people. They are “the transgender” just as ignoramuses like to talk about “the transgenders.”
Is the military working on enforcing his ban, as Trump says? That would be news. The last word from military officials was that they were waiting for the White House to send clarification to them. No ban has yet been enforced. The proposed ban, laid out by Trump via Twitter on July 26, is currently the subject of a lawsuit filed by two advocacy groups on behalf of five transgender service personnel.
According to the Pentagon, having trans people serving in the military has not been a “difficult situation,” as Trump claims. A Pentagon-commissioned study found that trans people had been serving without disruption for years. Similarly, the cost of medical treatments for the between 1,300 and 16,000 trans service members has been determined to be relatively small.
As for doing the military “a great favor,” nobody senior in the military has come out publicly to support the ban on transgender service members. On the contrary, his tweets about the ban attracted near-universal condemnation and ridicule. Veterans’ groups and retired generals rushed to say how valuable the service of trans military personnel had been.
Trump’s words occupy, as they have around LGBT people and issues for some time, a looking-glass world where his insistence that he is an ally sits square alongside a set of actions that signify the opposite.
Even the simplest expression of issuing a presidential Pride proclamation went undone.
Instead, there has been a drip-drip of attacks on the LGBT community, collected here by GLAAD, of which the trans military ban is merely the latest and most headline-grabbing.
The mystery is why Trump keeps saying he is pro-LGBT, or pro-trans, as he concertedly tries to chip away at hard-won equality and staff his administration—and surround himself—with people and organizations who are also uniformly hostile to LGBT people.
Perhaps he doesn’t see the contradiction. Perhaps he thinks he can make people believe it. Perhaps he thinks that he can “have it all.” Perhaps he knows exactly how absurd the contradiction between his words and actions are, and doesn’t care. But expect Trump to continue to insist he has “great respect” for LGBT people as he continues to scythe away at their lives and livelihoods.