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Steve King, Louie Gohmert Show Off Their Anti-Trans Bigotry

Congressman Steve King

King likens trans military members to castrated slaves, while Gohmert says they're a recruiting tool for terrorists.

Republicans Steve King and Louie Gohmert brought a wealth of anti-transgender rhetoric and very odd historical references to the floor of the U.S. House Friday in objecting to the passage of a defense bill without an amendment that would have prevented the military from paying for gender-affirmation procedures.

King, of Iowa, likened trans military members to captured troops reportedly castrated by the Ottoman Empire's army in the 16th and 17th centuries, while Gohmert, of Texas, said trans people would not be able to defend Western civilization and would be an "advertising bonanza" for "radical Islamists."

"Back in the 16th and 17th century when the Ottoman Empire and the Muslim armies were sweeping across the countryside ... whoever they captured people, they pressed into slavery," King said. The Ottomans didn't want their slaves to reproduce, he said, so they castrated them, taking them "from a virile, reproductive male to a eunuch." When these eunuchs were sent into battle in the army, "they didn't have the testosterone to take on the fight," King said.

He went on to say that people will enlist in the military just to get what he called "sexual reassignment surgery." "And today, we're here thinking somehow we're going to make the military better by letting people line up at their recruitment center who have planned that they want to do sexual reassignment surgery, know that it's expensive, and believe 'If I can just get into any branch of the United States services -- to the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines; maybe become a Navy SEAL -- and then submit to sexual reassignment surgery and then go from a man to a woman,'" King said. He also called the policy of allowing trans people to serve in the military "appallingly stupid."

"When it comes to the appallingly stupid," Charlie Pierce observed in Esquire, "nobody's a better judge than Congressman Steve King, and he was seconded by Gohmert, the Padishah Emperor of the Crazy People."

Gohmert invoked the 1683 Battle of Vienna, in which Polish prince John III Sobieski led European troops in turning back the Ottoman army. "I can assure my friends here in the House that there was nobody who was out there defending Western civilization who had undergone a sex-change operation in the previous two years," Gohmert said, apparently referring to the military policy requiring trans recruits to have been stable in their gender identity for 18 months.

He also said, "When it's advertised that the United States Congress is in favor of taking men and surgically making them into women with the money that they would use to protect the nation otherwise, or taking women and doing surgery to make them men, the United States Congress would rather spend that money on that surgery than defeating radical Islam, then it is an advertising bonanza for the radical Islamists because my Muslim friends tell me. ... if that's how stupid they are, this society has no right to remain on the earth. We need to take them out. They are too stupid."

The congressmen are getting some blowback for their comments. "Not only does he compare transgender troops to castrated slaves, but he insinuates that transgender people going into the service only do so to get free surgery," One Iowa executive director Daniel Hoffman-Zinnel said of King, according to The Des Moines Register. "People join the military for a multitude of reasons, and the same goes for transgender individuals. To group all transgender people together and claim they all intend to somehow game the system is not only false, but contributes to harmful and untrue stereotypes transgender people face that contribute to harassment and violence."

A contributor to Free Thought Blogs countered the representatives' arguments with some historical facts, then added, "Someone better tell King and Gohmert that being stupid removes your right to remain on earth is a personally very dangerous argument. I am tempted to agree that we need to 'take out' a certain pair of legislators for being dangerously idiotic, but that would be wrong."

And there was ample response on Twitter:

The anti-trans amendment was narrowly defeated Thursday. The ban on transgender people in the military was lifted last year, so trans troops already serving can be open about their identity without fearing discharge. The enrollment of new trans recruits was supposed to begin July 1 but was postponed for six months by Defense Secretary James Mattis.

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