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Woodward book: Trump surprised top staff with trans military ban

‘They’re getting clipped’ — Book details anti-trans comments made by Trump, Bannon

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President Donald Trump ban trans military service. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The new book by journalist Bob Woodward depicting chaos in the White House asserts President Trump announced his transgender military ban before hearing from officials during a planned meeting as he privately made anti-trans remarks describing gender reassignment surgery as “getting clipped,” according to a report in the Washington Examiner.

When Trump announced in a tweet in July 2017 he’d ban transgender people from the U.S. military “in any capacity,” he said he’d consulted military experts on the issue. However, the book — “Fear: Trump in the White House” — reportedly says Trump made the announcement before a planned meeting with top officials on options for transgender service.

Trump delivered the tweets reportedly about an hour before he was set to meet then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and adviser Steve Bannon in the Oval Office to discuss those options, which were made by the National Security Council.

According to the report, the council had no clear consensus from on transgender service and Priebus warned an all-and-all out ban would trigger lawsuits. Therefore, the ban on transgender service members “in any capacity” was surprising.

“What’d you think of my tweet?” Trump reportedly asked Priebus later.

“I think it would’ve been better if we had a decision memo, looped [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis in,” Priebus replied.

Priebus’ reported prediction on lawsuits came to pass. LGBT legal groups sued Trump over the ban and successfully enjoined the military from carrying the policy. Four federal courts have ruled against the policy and two appellate courts have upheld those decisions, although the litigation continues to make its way through the judicial system.

Although Trump said he consulted experts on that day and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in the daily briefing he gave a heads up to Defense Secretary James Mattis, the book reportedly says the Pentagon chief to the contrary was caught by surprise because he was vacation at the time on West Coast and was concerned about the impact of the tweet on transgender service members.

Sally Donnelly, an aide to Mattis at the time, called Bannon and said the defense secretary opposed the decision by Trump and would try to reverse it.

“Hey, we’ve got a problem with the boss,” she reportedly said. “We can’t stand by this transgender decision. This is just not right. They are American citizens.”

The book reportedly says Bannon responded to Mattis pleas with defiance and anti-trans comments.

“These guys are coming over to get full surgery. We’re supposed to pay for that?” Bannon told her. “You’ve got to take one for the team.”

Although Mattis reportedly expressed sympathy for transgender troops, that didn’t stop him from reaffirming the policy months later. After Trump directed Mattis to review transgender military service in a subsequent memo, the Pentagon chief issued recommendations earlier prohibiting transgender service with limited exceptions. That policy remains on hold thanks to court orders against the ban.

Although Trump reportedly didn’t consult with military advisers before the tweets, he was under pressure from the Freedom Caucus in the U.S. House, which reportedly threatened to vote against the budget if the administration didn’t cut back on military funding for gender reassignment surgery.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), an anti-LGBT lawmaker, had at the time introduced to the House floor an amendment banning the Pentagon from paying for transition-related care after making false claims about exorbitant costs of the procedure. Despite her efforts, the measure couldn’t pass the U.S. House even with a Republican majority.

Those false estimates reportedly somehow got to Trump, who made anti-trans remarks about service members getting clipped in response.

“What the fuck? They’re coming in here, they’re getting clipped,” Trump reportedly told Bannon, a reference to enlisting and undergoing surgery. “Not going to happen.”

According to the book, general counsels from the military services had met on the issue. Although they didn’t agree on a way forward, they prepared four options for Trump: Keep the Obama policy allowing transgender service; allow Mattis to come up with his own plan; issue a presidential order permitting transgender troops already in service to remain; or ban all transgender troops from service.

On the day of the tweets, Priebus presented the options to Trump via speakerphone and promised to flesh them out at the scheduled meeting later in the morning.

“I’ll be down at 10,” the president said, according to the book. “Why don’t you guys come and see me then? We’ll figure it out.”

Although Priebus reportedly believed the Trump administration “had found an orderly process on at least one controversial matter,” the former chief of staff shortly thereafter received the notification on his phone about Trump’s tweets and found the decision was made.

The White House has lambasted the Woodward book, which stirred coverage in the media as Trump scandals grow, as a work of fiction.

“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “While it is not always pretty, and rare that the press actually covers it, President Trump has broken through the bureaucratic process to deliver unprecedented successes for the American people. Sometimes it is unconventional, but he always gets results.”

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in revelations of the book speak volumes about the transgender ban, the people working for Trump and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

“The details unveiled by this book confirm what we already knew about this president and those working for him,” Keisling said. “Not a single member of his staff was willing to defend the honor of thousands of transgender troops by standing up to the president’s dangerous whims and blatant prejudice. Instead, they rolled over and accepted a ban they knew was immoral, illegal and dangerous to our national security. As senators consider President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, they should ask themselves if Judge Kavanaugh will have any less deference and blind loyalty to the president who nominated him.”

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Sheila Alexander-Reid to step down as director of D.C. LGBTQ Affairs Office

Veteran community activist to take new job workplace bias consultant

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Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs, Sheila Alexander-Reid, gay news, Washington Blade

Longtime LGBTQ community advocate Sheila Alexander-Reid, who has served since 2015 as director of Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Affairs, is stepping down from her city job in mid-July.

Alexander-Reid told the Washington Blade she will take a few weeks of accumulated leave beginning June 15 to recuperate from follow-up knee surgery before officially leaving her current job to take on a new role as a private sector consultant in the area of workplace bias and diversity training.

She said will announce the name of the private sector company she will be joining as a senior vice president when she begins her new job in mid-July.

Among her duties at the Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office has been to lead the office’s staff in providing LGBTQ related diversity or competency training for D.C. government employees at all city agencies.

According to the office’s website, other activities it carries out include connecting LGBTQ residents with city services they may need, advocating on behalf of programs and policies that benefit the lives of LGBTQ residents, providing grants to community-based organizations that serve the LGBTQ community and LGBTQ homeless youth; and host events that “enrich, promote, and bring together” the LGBTQ community in D.C.

“That work is always going to be part of who I am,” Alexander-Reid said. “But now I will be expanding on that work to look at racial equity and gender bias as well as LGBTQ bias,” she said. “I feel like I will be doing the same work but in a different format.”

Prior to starting her job at the mayor’s office, Alexander Reid served as Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Washington Blade, Director of Strategic Engagement at the Washington City Paper, and Founder and Executive Director of the D.C. based Women in the Life Association. She has also served as host of Inside Out, a local FM LGBTQ radio show.

Alexander-Reid noted that when she began work at the LGBTQ Affairs Office in late January 2015, less than a month after Bowser took office as mayor, the office consisted of two full-time employees, including her, with a budget of $209,000. In the current fiscal year 2021, the office now has four full-time employees and two additional detailed employees, from the Department of Health and Department of Human Services. The mayor is proposing a budget of $561,000 for the office for fiscal year 2022.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t say what a pleasure it has been to work for Mayor Bowser,” said Alexander-Reid. “I was excited to work for her and I don’t regret it for one second. “It’s been an amazing journey and I appreciate her having faith in me.”

She said she expects an interim director to be named to run the office in mid-July while a search is conducted for a permanent director.

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Attack on trans woman in D.C. laundromat captured in video

Police seek help from community in identifying suspects.

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(Screen capture via the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department's YouTube channel)

D.C. police on Thursday night released a dramatic video taken from a surveillance camera showing two women and a man repeatedly punching and shoving a transgender woman at a laundromat on Benning Road in Northeast Washington in an incident in which the victim was stabbed in the head.

Police, who have listed the Sunday, June 6, incident as a suspected anti-LGBTQ hate crime, are appealing to the community for help in identifying the three suspects, who are shown in the video attacking the trans woman before escaping in a black SUV while carrying laundry bags.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police Department’s Sixth District obtained the video from a surveillance camera at the Capital Laundry Mat at 1653 Benning Road, N.E., according to a police report and a police statement released Thursday night.

The video shows that the suspects were accompanied by two young children. It shows one of the adult female suspects appearing to be dancing by herself in front of a row of washing machines seconds before the three suspects lunged at the victim and began punching her.

“One of the suspects brandished a knife and stabbed the victim,” the police statement says. “The suspects fled the scene in a vehicle. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries,” the statement says.

“Anyone who can identify these individuals, or vehicle, or has knowledge of this incident should take no action but call police at 202-727-9099 or text your tip to the Department’s TEXT TIP LINE at 50411,” the statement adds. It says the department’s Crime Solvers program offers a reward of up to $1,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and indictment of a person or persons responsible for a crime committed in D.C.

Police spokesperson Alaina Gertz told the Washington Blade that because the investigation is ongoing, police could not immediately disclose whether they know if the victim knew one or more of the attackers before the incident took place or what, if anything, prompted the suspects to attack the victim other than due to her status as a transgender person.

The video released by D.C. police can be accessed here:  https://youtu.be/7v8lthvUPcg

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North Dakota lawmakers okay regulation banning Conversion Therapy

This rule change will stop the vast majority of mental health providers in North Dakota from subjecting LGBTQ youth to conversion therapy

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Capitol Building of North Dakota in Bismarck (Photo Credit: State of North Dakota)

BISMARCK, ND. – The North Dakota House Administrative Rules Committee voted 8-7 on Tuesday, June 8, to authorize the rule proposed by the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners, implementing new regulations prohibiting licensed social workers from subjecting LGBTQ youth to the widely discredited practice of conversion therapy.

The North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners, which oversees licensing for social workers in the state, created the new rule which states that “it is an ethical violation for a social worker licensed by the board to engage in any practices or treatments that attempt to change or repair the sexual orientation or gender identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning individuals.”

The West Hollywood based Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people, had worked with Democratic House Minority Leader Rep. Josh Boschee, the National Association of Social Workers ND Chapter, the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, and local advocates like Elizabeth Loos to advance these critical protections for LGBTQ youth.

 “This rule change will stop the vast majority of mental health providers in North Dakota from subjecting LGBTQ youth to the dangerous and discredited practice of conversion therapy. This practice is not therapy at all— it’s abusive and fraudulent,” said Troy Stevenson, Senior Advocacy Campaign Manager for The Trevor Project. “There is still more work to be done in North Dakota, but this bold action will help save young lives. The Trevor Project is committed to an every state strategy to protect LGBTQ youth from conversion therapy and North Dakota has proven that progress is possible anywhere.”

“Thank you to the North Dakota Board of Social Work Examiners for restricting licensed social workers in North Dakota from being able to practice conversion therapy! LGBT North Dakotans, especially youth, are safer now as you hold licensees responsible to the NASW Code of Ethics,” said Minority Leader Boschee. 

The proposed ban on therapist-administered conversion therapy in North Dakota was met with opposition by several of the committee’s most socially conservative members, the Grand Forks Herald reported.

Rep. Dan Ruby, R-Minot, told the paper that he worries the new prohibition is limiting because it would prevent people seeking “some kind of treatment” from getting help. Bell said the rule is written so clients who are LGBT or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity are not inhibited from seeking care.

Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown, said he’s concerned the rule would interfere with religious counseling, adding “there are some cases where people want to change.”

“There are licensed counselors that are also Christians, and basically my concern in all of this is that we’re telling the Christian counselors ‘you can be a licensed counselor, but you can’t practice your Christianity,'” Satrom said.

Satrom and West Fargo Republican Rep. Kim Koppelman said approving the social workers’ ban on conversion therapy is outside of the committee’s scope and ought to be scrutinized by the full Legislature.

Boschee, the North Dakota Legislature’s only openly gay member, told the Grand Forks Herald that he was disappointed in some of his colleagues for standing behind the “harmful” practice of conversion therapy and trying to muddy the conversation over what is a simple self-imposed rule for social workers. The Fargo Democrat said he was ultimately pleased that seven lawmakers joined him in upholding the proposed ban.

Research: 

  • According to The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 13% of LGBTQ youth reported being subjected to conversion therapy, with 83% reporting it occurred when they were under age 18. LGBTQ youth who were subjected to conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not.
  • According to a peer-reviewed study by The Trevor Project published in the American Journal of Public Health, LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and more than 2.5 times as likely to report multiple suicide attempts in the past year.
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