So pushback on the transgender military ban continues — from the right! This is what presidential overreach looks like. A Fox News headline even read "Conservatives: We Didn't Ask for Ban." Or as The Washington Post put it — "2004 Called. It Wants Its Wedge Issue Back."
In fact, it was deeply disorienting seeing Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch as the poster child for Republican pushback. But there he was, on the Post home page. I won't bore you with the full quote, but it basically went "Gosh, we should be nice to everyone, and transgender people are people too, so we should be nice to them." When we have the Mormons in our corner, we’ve probably gone too far.
Then there was John McCain, Senate leader on all things military, who also immediately pushed back at the president in support of service members, "regardless of their gender identity." This is the same McCain who was a "no" on "don't ask, don't tell" repeal.
Then there was Sen. Richard Shelby, Republican from Alabama (the state poised to elect another senator who nearly laid across train tracks to stop same-sex marriage and is deeply racist) saying aw, shucks, we should "treat everyone fairly and give everybody a chance."
Even the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest-ranking military officer in the country, pushed back, stating publicly that nothing would be done without a lot of clarification and the whole thing going through regular channels. Until then, “we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect.” (Sadly, that clarification is on its way.)
This is a door closing, people. I know everyone is in full outrage mode right now, and with good reason. I get it. But take a look at what's going on.
Political progress is not sequential. It comes in unexpected burps and jumps.
Sometimes these bumps come from good things, like the Obama Department of Justice getting behind trans kids' bathroom use or the Supreme Court's marriage equality decision. Suddenly, political reality and public opinion just crystallize in a new place, and there's no turning back.
Sometimes political progress comes from little nasty things that don't happen, things that would have once politically been a "gimme" but now just die a quiet death and are never heard from again.
For instance, the recent bill introduced by House Republicans that would have banned transition-related medical care in the annual defense authorization bill. Even in a Republican-majority House with votes to spare and the most conservatives in recent memory, it didn't come to pass.
That should have told the Trump Monster that even his own party didn't have the heart for demonizing trans people one more time.
And then, sometimes progress comes from things that are simply overreach, where a new political reality becomes apparent to everyone as they realize as a nation we've moved on.
That's what is happening right now. The Pentagon, the bigwigs in the Senate, everyone is lining up against this. Even Republican Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, won't say publicly that he supports the ban.
We're not exactly the untouchable third rail of politics, as some like to describe Social Security. But I'd say everyone now realizes that trans people are pretty much a spent force as the culture warriors' go-to whipping post — particularly transgender military bravely serving their country.
Here's a modest proposal if it reemerges.
A group of transgender people in uniform should contact the national media, show up at the Texas statehouse in Austin, and publicly proceed to use the correct bathrooms.
How can the right possibly say that it's okay for a transgender woman to fight and die for her country in a foreign land, but once she returns home, if the military happens to ship her through the DFW airport, the message will be, "Thank you for your service — now we're arresting you and throwing your uniformed ass in jail for trying to pee in the women room."
They'd either have to stand by and let them use the State House restrooms, or arrest them and throw them all in jail. Either way it's a complete disaster than unmasks the stupidity and unworkability of the policy. This would be the photo-op from Hell for the right.
So my transgender military friends — any takers?
RIKI WILCHINS is an author and advocate.