It’s been two days since President Trump announced on Twitter that he’d be banning transgender service in the military, effectively firing as many as 15,000 active and reserve servicemembers. Though no order has apparently been given and trans people are still serving, the administration is continuing to defend the decision.
Top Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka spoke to BBC Radio 4 Friday morning about the ban, explaining that because there are high rates of suicidal thinking among transgender people, and thus should not be forced “into the hierarchical military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed.” Trump thus banned them from serving “out of the warmth of his consideration for this population.”
Gorka proudly shared a clip of his interview on Twitter, adding that the military shouldn’t be treated as an “ideological petri dish” or subjected to “social engineering.”
Under @realDonaldTrump we refuse to treat the American military as an ideological petri dish.
Obama-era social engineering is over. https://t.co/2tkGIH9OPW
— Sebastian Gorka DrG (@SebGorka) July 28, 2017
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) July 28, 2017
Not heard in the shorter clip is the interviewer countering, “It probably doesn’t feel like warmth from the transgender perspective.” The UK has notably allowed transgender service for the better part of two decades, and the heads of the British armed forces publicly expressed support this week for U.S. trans soldiers.
“Well, we’re not here to represent one part of America,” Gorka responded. “We are here to represent all of America and protect Americans.”
It’s true that studies have found high rates of suicide attempts among transgender people, but they’ve shown direct correlations between experiences of rejection and discrimination and those suicide attempt rates. It’s not surprising that when people have been rejected by their families and denied jobs and housing, they in turn experience higher rates of mental distress.
In other words, Gorka’s argument is completely backwards. By denying trans people employment, it will only exacerbate their mental health consequences. And of course, he ignores that trans people have been capably serving for years, including openly for the past year. They are not asking to be let go from their jobs.