In the midst of the Russian investigation and the ACA vote, many people’s reaction was to call Trump’s ban on trans people in the military a distraction from the ‘real’ issues. But saying this was a distraction is both untrue and just as damaging as calling trans people in the military a disruption.
First, the timing isn’t random. In June 2016 the Pentagon ended the ban on transgender people in the military. This allowed trans people to serve as openly trans and not be discharged. However, transgender people were still unable to enlist. That step was intended to take place July 1st, 2017. This did not happen because Defense Secretary James Mattis agreed to a six-month delay. The delay has been heavy in the news cycle for the last several weeks. The conservatives saw this as a glimmer of hope that the ban might be reinstated. Trump’s tweets came only 25 days after the day when transgender people would have been allowed to enlist. This wasn’t randomly timed.
Second, when you call something a distraction you are saying it is not worth attention. When I build a learning activity, I put in distractors, and I put in the information I want the learner to the retain. The distractors are the pieces of information I do not want the learner to remember. When you say that Trump’s tweets are a distraction, you’re saying that transgender people in the military do not deserve our attention. Trump called transgender people in the military a disruption. A disruption and a distraction aren’t that different. Both terms are used when something takes away from the main event or the important thing. Transgender people are neither a disruption or a distraction. Was it a political move to appeal to his hate-filled base? Maybe. But it was no distraction. It was a continued assault on the transgender community.
A distraction is using someone’s emails against them. It’s taking everyone’s attention away from something that affects many and focusing it on something that affects none. Just because the transgender military ban doesn’t affect you, that doesn’t mean it’s a distraction. Sure. It affects far fewer people than the ACA repeal or the Russian investigation. But it’s hardly a distraction. It’s a large number of people’s lives. It’s refusing to let transgender people exist in places where cisgender people exist.
If your first instinct was to assume this was a distraction, I would take a moment and think why. What about this issue is a distraction for you? Why is not worth your full attention? Try to think about a group you identify with – moms, lesbians, vegans – what if the president said, moms can no longer enlist because it’s a disruption! Then your newsfeed was filled with people calling his words a distraction. How would that feel?
Any time a group of people are not allowed in certain spaces that is an assault on America values. It not simply a distraction.