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Here's Why Donald Trump's Trans Military Ban Tweets Aren't A Distraction

Whenever Donald Trump announces a new social policy that would harm vulnerable populations, inevitably, a number of people argue that we shouldn't get distracted from the real problems at hand. It happened with the Muslim travel ban. It happened with the conflicting announcements about funding for his border wall.

And the shocking announcement on July 26 that transgender individuals will be banned from the military is no different. A number of people have taken to Twitter to claim that Trump's trans military ban is a “distraction tactic.”

But that raises the question: from what are these social policies distracting? Some are claiming that this ban distracts from conversations about health care and the Russia investigationPolitico reported that the ban might be a matter of quid pro quo: ban trans people, receive funding for a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

But no matter the reason for policies like the trans military ban, they still hurt people. Living, breathing people. And they are not a mere distraction.

The word “distraction” is loaded. A diversion. An interruption. The word infers that those getting upset about the trans ban are not paying attention to the real issues — the important issues. And publications like Mother Jones have argued that Trump's “distractions” — social policies and his furious tweets about everything from Mika Brzezinski to the London terrorist attack — are akin to 4D chess: a propagandist policy that takes your attention away from what's really at stake.

Even if he were using these policy roll-outs as a distraction (from what? Russia? He tweets about that all the time) it doesn't mean these policies are any less impactful or any less important to pay attention to and to fight against.

There's also a hierarchy at play when we talk about “distractions” like the trans military ban. 

Let's look at what it's compared to: health care affects everyone; while collusion with Russia would mean our entire government has been compromised. These are both issues that will affect white, cisgender, heterosexual people just as much as people of color, non-Christians, women, and the LGBTQ+ community — whereas the trans military ban targets a specific marginalized group.

Letitia James the Public Advocate for New York City addresses a crowd of protesters about the transgender military ban on July 26

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

So “distraction” is a coded way to essentially say, “Let's stop talking about these communities.”

It faintly echoes the idea, as Bernie Sanders once said, that “identity politics” aren't real issues — or, at the very least, that they're not as important as economic issues.

The notion that this policy isn't as important as other issues demeans and belittles the humans who suffer at the hands of policies like the military ban. Further, though this is just targeted at trans individuals in the military, the effects will trickle down and endanger all trans people.

Trump's notion that he's doing this to save on the “tremendous” cost of medical care for trans individuals just highlights how social policy and economic policy are entwined. This ban will further marginalize an already-maligned population in the name of saving money.

There are real lives on the line here.

Even those who ostensibly acknowledge that Trump's social policies hurt real people can do more harm than good by calling these policies “distractions.”

The fact of the matter is that it's all bad.

Russian interference in the presidential election. The White House's slash-and-burn budget proposal. The Muslim ban. The potential repeal of healthcare. Trump's rambling, often vicious tweets. The military trans ban.

These issues intersect and merge into the core idea at the heart of the Trump administration: that the things that matter in the United States are the ones that affect the Donald Trumps of the world. The men whose right to marry or right to serve in the military have never been questioned, the ones who have never been persecuted or bullied for their religious beliefs, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, the color of their skin. The ones who have never worried about whether or not their own bodies would, by default, disqualify them from crucial medical care.

When we talk about the trans military ban being a distraction, we're saying that some issues matter more than others — and that kind of rhetoric almost always means that marginalized people get left behind.

It's all worth paying attention to.

And it is okay to care about all of these things at once.  And it is possible to care about all of these issues at once. Transgender rights are human rights, and it's not a distraction to demand that we fight as fiercely to support transgender Americans as we do for other rights at stake.

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Lisa Dunn

Staff Writer

Lisa is a news writer based in Portland, Oregon. She is currently researching and writing about abortion for her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.
Lisa is a news writer based in Portland, Oregon. She is currently researching and writing about abortion for her MFA in Creative Nonfiction.

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