A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C., May 3, 2016. 
Photo by Jonathan Drake/Reuters

Rolling back transgender rights, Trump says he’s ‘protecting everybody’


Donald Trump’s offensive against transgender Americans has been unusually aggressive of late. The New York Times  reported earlier this week, for example, that the Trump administration is weighing legal changes that would “essentially eradicate federal recognition of the estimated 1.4 million Americans who have opted to recognize themselves – surgically or otherwise – as a gender other than the one they were born into.”

Soon after, we learned that Solicitor General Noel Francisco, a Trump appointee, told the U.S. Supreme Court that “businesses can discriminate against workers based on their gender identity without violating federal law.”

It’s against this backdrop that the president had a brief Q&A with reporters this week, and he fielded a question about his promises to protect transgender Americans. This was the full exchange:

TRUMP: We’re looking at it. We have a lot of different concepts right now. They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now. You know that as well as I do. And we’re looking at it very seriously.

Q: But what about your promise to protect the LGBTQ community?

TRUMP: I’m protecting everybody.

Q: Transgender Americans say you’ve given up on them.

TRUMP: You know what I’m doing? I’m protecting everybody. I want to protect our country.

When I say I have no idea what all of this means, I’m being quite literal. When Trump said, “We’re looking at it,” for example, he didn’t say what “it” referred to, who “we” are, or what it is they’re looking for, exactly.

He added, “We have a lot of different concepts right now,” and, “They have a lot of different things happening with respect to transgender right now.” Those are two sentences with several words, all of which amount to nothing.

“I’m protecting everybody” is a nice sentiment, though by all appearances, it’s untrue. “I want to protect our country” is a worthwhile goal, but in context, Trump gave no indication of how or why the country would be better protected by undermining the rights and interests of transgender Americans.

Something similar happened last year after Trump announced a ban on transgender troops – news that came as a surprise to the Pentagon – and defended the move by saying, “I think I’m doing a lot of people a favor by coming out and just saying it.”

More than a year later, I still don’t know what this was supposed to mean.

It’s a problem that the president is taking deliberate steps to roll back the rights of many Americans, but it adds insult to injury that Trump can’t seem to talk about the subject in a coherent way.