The Right’s anti-LGBTQ Culture War

Trump’s tweets today announced an end to an Obama-era policy that allowed transgender service members in the US military and began to provide medical and other care related to their transitions. In his announcement, the President referred not to the combat effectiveness or readiness of transgender soldiers but to the cost of providing their care. I leave it to others more qualified to comment on the importance this ruling, if enacted, will have for service members who have already come out and begun their transitions and for those who rely on the military for other medical or social services.

Instead I want to highlight some of the reactions this move has gotten on the right wing. The alt right twitter universe has predictably been enthusiastic about the measure, arguing that Trump’s move signifies a commitment to a “culture war” — likely a reference to the Republican focus on family values in the 1990’s that contributed to their majority hold on Congress and the election of George W. Bush (though that term “culture war” actually has a much older history). A front page opinion piece in Breitbart by Neil Munro, who until recently worked for the Daily Caller, hailed the move as “assertively mainstream,” “pro-sexes,” and a defeat for the left.

It should of course be no surprise that the right would use this as evidence of their victory and superiority over the left, and unfortunately they are correct in doing so. That the President can make such a decree, that the GOP controls the Congress, the Supreme Court, and most state governments to such a degree that the left can currently do little to legislatively protect transfolk from any potential GOP backlash, is indicative of previous defeats. Munro claims that a minority of citizens support trans rights, and he is likely correct about this.

But looking at history means learning that we can’t accept current opinions and reactions if we hope to produce the kind of world we want to live in. The racial desegregation of the military (announced on this day 69 years ago) was also unpopular on the right, as was the gradual shift in military policy to accept homosexual service members. Progressives, leftists, and supporters of LGBTQ rights cannot hope that inevitable demographic or other trends will produce the majority they want, a lesson which the right has been running with for decades. These fights are long and difficult, and aren’t won by following public opinion but by leading it.