Carlton: Now we’re bullying our transgender troops?

President Donald Trump speaks to members of military during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |   Times]
President Donald Trump speaks to members of military during a visit to the headquarters of the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published
Updated August 9

The official bully of my elementary school was Curt. Curt’s trademark torture was to grab another boy’s forearm and twist it viciously until the skin burned red. He also enjoyed administering a swift smack to the back of an unsuspecting head.

But one day Curt hit a kid who hit him back, hard, in front of all of us. Curt immediately turned and punched another boy in the face. Why? At that moment I think Curt wanted us looking at anything but Curt.

Which brings me to a recent and notably low moment from Washington.

I know, I know — so many to choose from in what’s been described as President Donald Trump’s whack-a-mole approach to running a country:

A failed attempt to deprive millions of health insurance, a revolving door spinning at the White House, the daily disclosures vying to top each other in improbability and outrage and his own unabating migraine that is Russia.

In the midst of this chaos, and with about as much warning as we got from Tropical Storm Emily, there was Trump decreeing transgender people are banned from serving in the military.

To quote him on Twitter: (because how else would you make a major military announcement): After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow...Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.

The discussion going on at the time was actually about taxpayers paying for transgender-related medical expenses for military personnel. Instead, the president went with the nuclear option, about-facing a progressive Obama administration-era decision last year that made it possible for qualified transgender people to openly serve.

And talk about your solution without a problem.

Trump cited "the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Did anyone tell him thousands of transgender people already serve this country? His press secretary said letting them openly do so "erodes military readiness and unit cohesion."

Which earned a big fat: Says who?

Last year, RAND Corporation research commissioned by the Pentagon determined that allowing transgender people to openly serve would have "minimal impact on readiness and health care costs" and mean a less than one percent increase in active-duty health care spending.

The abrupt ban by Trump — who notably courted the LGBT vote on the campaign trail — has rightly been called mean-spirited, demeaning and a betrayal to men and women deemed fit to serve. And who stepped up to do so. What happened to "Thank you for your service?"

Is it a surprise attack to distract from the fires that seem to pop up for Trump daily? A bone thrown to the conservative intolerance crowd that loves him so? An attempt to divide us in new and creative ways?

All of that?

Here’s the thing. People in the military I’ve known over the years — police officers, too — seem more concerned with the loyalty, solidarity and ability of the person next to them than much else.

And seriously, don’t we have enough real fights to fight?

Sue Carlton can be reached at [email protected]

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