Stella Maxwell
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Reading the Far Right: Applauding the Trans Ban and Misusing History

Trans People Keep Out

There was great rejoicing in right-wing media land in the past few days over Donald Trump’s announcement of a new ban on military service by transgender people.

It’s the prudent, the patriotic, even the godly thing to do, according to the far-right outlets we read so you don’t have to. Oh, and it’s saving Western civilization.

That last one is the considered opinion of Breitbart columnist James Delingpole. “Just like The Simpsons in the days when it was good, Trump’s ban on transgenderism in the military is great because it works on so many levels,” Delingpole wrote, then went on to say, “Maybe the most important reason of all why it’s great is this: President Trump just did — again — what literally no other leader in the world is doing right now. He took a step towards saving Western Civilization.”

He continued, “One of the reasons we know that Western Civilization is on its last legs is because of precisely the kind of cultural and intellectual decadence that gave us Obama’s rules on transgenders in the military, and which is also responsible for all that shrieking we’re hearing from liberals now about what a terrible thing Trump did to repeal that legislation.” (By the way, it wasn’t legislation, as in an act of Congress. It was a Defense Department policy, which leaders of the department can change.)

Delingpole touched on all the usual talking points about the military being for waging war and not for so-called social experimentation, ignoring, of course, that trans people have been serving bravely for years, albeit in the closet, and not undermining its ability to make war. He also contended that covering transition-related medical procedures (which not all trans service members will request) would “cost the U.S. taxpayer heinous amounts of money,” without noting that the amount is a minuscule fraction of the overall military budget. And the military spends way more on Viagra than reliable sources project it would spend on transition procedures.

Over at BarbWire, Arthur Schaper, who’s known for disrupting city council meetings and political forums around California, called transgender people mentally ill. “Let’s state the facts plainly,” he wrote. “Transgenderism is not a civil right, nor an alternative form of self-expression. It’s a mental disorder based on an ideology which undermines the foundations of our culture, of any society. More gender studies, based in biological research as opposed to social justice sentiment, confirm that the sexual characteristics of male and female are immutable.

“Taking a knife to one’s private parts or shoving plastic bags into one’s chest will not turn a man into a woman. Besides, service in our nation’s military depends on well-grounded, sane men and women who are committed to the greater good of protecting our country and ensuring the safety of their fellow officers.”

Well, we’re reasonably sure transgender troops are committed to just that.

One of the wildest explanations came not from right-wing media, but from a right-wing guest being interviewed by an eminently mainstream source, the BBC. Last Friday on BBC Radio 4’s Today, host Peter Bowes asked Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka about the ban, saying, “Does that feel to you like a commander in chief who cares about the men and women who fight, often, and serve, certainly, for the good of all Americans?”

Gorka’s response, helpfully flagged by Media Matters, was that Trump was reinstating the ban because he cares about trans people so much. Oh, and by the way, they’re unstable.

“There are leading studies from the medical establishment, for example, that state that the transgender community has a 40 percent suicide attempt rate,” Gorka said. “That is a tragedy. We need to help those people, we don't need to try and force them into the hierarchical military environment where they are under the utmost pressure to kill or be killed, and that is why the president is doing this out of the warmth of his consideration for this population.”

Having taken a moment to scream, we must calm down enough to point out that most responsible medical professionals would say that trans people attempt suicide because of discrimination and not being free to live as their authentic selves, not simply because of being trans. What’s more, the military subjects all recruits to rigorous screenings for physical and mental health.

And the reliably anti-LGBT Michael Brown, who’s carried at Townhall, World Net Daily, and other right-wing sites, said he loves trans people too, but they just need to stop being trans, and Jesus will help them with that.

“Some LGBT activists are lambasting Christian leaders for celebrating the president’s ban on transgenders in the military,” Brown wrote. “In their view, these leaders are celebrating an act of cruelty and discrimination, thereby contradicting the message of Jesus. Is there any truth to this charge?”

Brown’s conclusion, of course, is that there is not. “The answer is simple: It’s a practical decision, it’s a wise decision, and it’s a godly decision,” he asserted. While he allowed that many trans people in the military are undoubtedly courageous (you have no idea, Mr. Brown), he opposed their inclusion, using the typical and easily refutable arguments about cost, military readiness, and discomfort of cisgender (nontrans) service members.

He was upset about trans people who choose not to have genital surgery, claiming trans women who have not done so will pose a danger to cis women, which is of course pretty preposterous. So when it comes to surgery, trans people are damned if they do and damned if they don’t, by the far right, at least. So, according to Brown and his ilk, the answer is just not to be trans.

“As followers of Jesus, then, we reach out to the marginalized and hurting with compassion, offering them new life in Him,” Brown continued. “But we don’t throw out logic, common sense, or the concern for the well-being of everyone else. Nor do we ask the military to risk the lives of others to affirm the feelings of people suffering from gender dysphoria.”

Now, we realize that accepting transgender people for who they are requires a shift in thinking — a shift that had to be made when learning to discard racism, sexism, and homophobia. OK, the world is still working on all of those. But there’s one thing that works well at undermining prejudices: human contact. Get to know some trans people, right-wingers. If your minds are open, you just might change your thinking.    

As there’s so much to cover with the trans ban reaction, we’ll keep the rest of this column short, but it’s worth noting that a lot of the right-wing sites are publishing excerpts from a new book by Dinesh D’Souza, who worked in the Reagan White House and for the ultraconservative American Enterprise Institute. The title is The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the American Left.

An excerpt featured Monday on Breitbart asserts that Adolf Hitler “learned a great deal from the Democrats and from American progressives.” Just what? Well, D’Souza helpfully answers this question.

“So what did Hitler learn from the Democratic Party and from his fellow leftists in America?” he writes. “First, he credited his plan of lebensraum or ‘living space’ —specifically, his plan to forcibly seize the land in Russia, Poland and Eastern Europe, and enslave the native inhabitants — to the Jacksonian Democrats. In a 1928 speech, Hitler noted that Americans in the Jacksonian Era had ‘gunned down the millions of Redskins to a few hundred thousand, and now keep the modest remnant under observation in a cage.’”

Yes, killing Native Americans and seizing their lands was a progressive idea! OK, let’s take this apart. Jackson was a Democrat (he’s also a hero to none other than Donald Trump), but the Democratic Party of his era was, uh, far different from today’s Democratic Party. And many members of the Republican Party, which got started a couple decades after Jackson’s time as an antislavery party (good) also supported actions that were destructive to Native Americans (bad).

D’Souza goes on to say that Hitler’s anti-Semitic “Nuremberg Laws” were inspired by the “Jim Crow” laws enacted in the American South after the Civil War to assure that blacks, although no longer enslaved, had virtually no rights. “Let’s remember that every segregation law in the South was passed by a Democratic legislature, signed by a Democratic governor, and enforced by Democratic officials,” he writes. “The Nuremberg team carefully studied these laws that were mainly aimed at blacks and used them to formulate their own racist legislation mainly aimed at Jews.”

Again: a Democratic Party that is far different from today’s Democratic Party. Not that the Democratic Party is perfect, or that the Republican Party is totally terrible — many of us are applauding the Republican senators who joined Democrats in voting against the Affordable Care Act’s repeal and replacement last week. But D’Souza seems to count on his readers having no knowledge of how political parties have evolved over time.

You can’t make this stuff up, although sometimes we wish we had. But we’ll be back next week with another report of intel gleaned from reading the far right, so you don’t have to.

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