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Trump to Transgender Service Members: Get Out

July 26, 2017, 5:24 PM UTC

Today, in a three-part tweet thread, President Trump banned transgender personnel from serving in the military.

“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,” he began. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming….. victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

The “tremendous medical costs” claim associated with transgender service members does not appear to be true.

Last year, the Pentagon commissioned a report on the possible effects of allowing transgender people to serve. The results showed that the costs would be negligible both in terms of medical requirements and unit cohesion. Conducted by the Rand Corporation, the study estimated that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender individuals on active duty out of a force of 1.3 million people. The cost of providing these individuals with specialized health care, including possible surgeries, would be between $2.4 million and $8.4 million a year. Total military health-care expenditures were $6.27 billion in 2014.

And yet the issue persists. Two weeks ago, an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have prevented the Pentagon from spending money on gender-related surgery for troops was narrowly defeated. Yesterday, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen asked Congress not to attempt to influence the Pentagon’s policies with regard to transgender service members.

“I led our armed forces under the flawed ‘Don’t ask, Don’t tell’ policy and saw firsthand the harm to readiness and morale when we fail to treat all service members according to the same standards,” he told USA Today. “Thousands of transgender Americans are currently serving in uniform and there is no reason to single out these brave men and women and deny them the medical care that they require.”

In light of this, Trump’s tweets are particularly disturbing.

But here’s some good news. In many cases, corporate leaders are doing the work the government isn’t. Companies are standing up for inclusion when it comes to transgender employees and their families. According to the 2015 Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, 66% of Fortune 500 companies have instituted a gender identity non-discrimination policy, up from 3% in 2002. Fortune’s Claire Zillman has called it a “quiet revolution” that is changing the country:

For more than a decade, some of the nation’s largest companies have stepped in where the United States government has not by providing nondiscrimination protections, healthcare benefits, and transition guidelines to their transgender employees, even as the community remained marginalized in mainstream American culture.

And the work continues. Consider this amicus brief filed in March by a coalition of 59 companies in support of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia high school student who brought his fight to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity to the Supreme Court. It’s a full-throated defense of transgender rights, co-signed by a wide variety of firms including Fortune 500 stalwarts Amazon, Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Twitter, and Yahoo. It’s filled with data which supports the business case for inclusion, but also functions as a collective statement of values that are worth considering now.

I’ll give them the last word:

“Beyond the practical benefits that LGBT-friendly policies foster, amici’s policies of diversity and inclusion reflect their core values, and amici believe that treating transgender people with the dignity and respect they deserve is simply the right thing to do.”

On Point

What it feels like to be a transgender person in the militaryThis interview with former Senior Airman Jordan Blisk is extraordinary for many reasons, not the least of which are the illustrations that let his story of pain and redemption unfold in such an effective way. Blisk, like many 17-year-olds, was stuck for an affordable education option after high school. But after years of bullying by his youth pastor and teachers and lying about his sexuality, it was in the military that he discovered that he wasn’t a gay woman, but actually a straight man. “I really loved being called by my last name,” he says. “When I started getting called ‘sir’ I was scared by how right it felt.” Enlisting, he believes, saved his life. As a teen, “I did not believe I would survive past my mid-twenties,” he says. “I felt like the world was so hateful towards people like me that I would have to die for it to stop.”Buzzfeed

Roxane Gay: I don’t want to watch slavery fan fiction
The idea of the alternate history storyline is not new. There are plenty of works which imagine a world where the Nazi's prevailed, or the Civil War ended differently. But, says writer and critic Roxane Gay, that’s not the point. “Each time I see a reimagining of the Civil War that largely replicates what actually happened, I wonder why people are expending the energy to imagine that slavery continues to thrive when we are still dealing with the vestiges of slavery in very tangible ways,” she says. And while she’s clear that the “Games of Thrones” creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, along with black writers Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman, are well within their rights to do just that with their new HBO series, “Confederate,”she points to unintended consequences. “I cannot help worrying that there are people, emboldened by this administration, who will watch a show like “Confederate and see it as inspiration, rather than a cautionary tale.”
New York Times

The racism in the promotion of the Mayweather-McGregor bout is more rope than dope
It is a boxing story we’ve seen time and time again, says writer and professor Khaled A. Beydoun, the “great white hope” seeking to put the big talking “black brute” in his place. But the tour promoting the Floyd Mayweather Jr. versus Conor McGregor fight scheduled for August has outperformed the sport’s racist past. “[B]oxing’s checkered history of capitalizing on racial and ethnic rivalries to sell bouts has taken a turn for the worse with this unprecedented megafight, with racist taunts and bigoted trash talk showcased, loudly and vividly, throughout the four-city press tour,” he says. Much of the nonsense comes from McGregor, who is not considered to be much of a contender. And of course, Mayweather has a tax bill to pay. Click through for the trash talk, but Beydoun tips his hat to McGregor for doing the impossible. “He has made Mayweather, the man with a horrific record of domestic abuse who has built a long and lucrative career playing the villain, the fight’s sympathetic figure and public favorite."
The Undefeated

Ceasing to associate with women will not help the problem of harassment in tech
TechCrunch’s Jon Evans has some strong words for Silicon Valley men who are quietly asking whether they should continue hiring, investing in, or being alone in a room with a woman. “Such men seem not to realize that by asking this question, they are communicating one or more of these three things,” he begins. One, you’re a sexual harasser. Two, you think women are overreacting to ordinary behaviors. And finally, you think women routinely make false accusations, and therefore you're at risk. He succinctly tears down these underlying assumptions and makes this final point. “[M]en of tech, please remember that the problem with which we are currently collectively trying to grapple is not a problem with the women around you,” he says. And if you’re really worried, maybe it’s time to take a look in the mirror.

The Woke Leader

Lyndon Johnson was both a civil rights hero and a racist
Hey, you actually can be both. In a terrific analytical piece, Adam Serwer makes the point that people are complex beings who are products of their time. It makes no sense to gloss over uncomfortable truths in the service of just getting along. The civil rights legislation Johnson was so famous for? He referred to it ‘the nigger bill’ to southern lawmakers, and didn’t particularly care who heard him.

Keeping the light on for you
Daisy Auger-Dominguez, a diversity and inclusion expert and raceAhead favorite, weighs in with a touching essay on a beautiful practice: keeping space for travelers in need by maintaining a "Good Samaritan" room. Even as a young professional living with a roommate in a NYC apartment, she always had one. “This Good Samaritan room was an empty room we reserved for the transient visitor to New York City.” It’s part of her emotional DNA, she explains. “Growing up in the Dominican Republic, I have vivid images of my grandmother filling out U.S. immigration forms for family and friends, often by candlelight due to the rolling blackouts that plagued the island.” Watching the kindness with which her grandmother helped travelers seeking to be reunited with family, find a job or get an education imprinted on her. As a result, the people she invited in for a “soft landing” in the Good Samaritan room did too. One in particular, as it turns out…

In his shoes
Charlotte Alter interviewed some two dozen transgender men and activists, including people of color, about their lives and families. Men who were raised as girls and socialized as women had extraordinary things to say about the fundamentally different way the world now treats them, and what it means for them at work, in their relationships, and as they walk down the street.


Let's meet face to face and you tell me I'm not worthy. Transgender doesn't matter. Do your service.
—Kristen Beck, retired Navy SEAL Team 6