In a country where a TV station once said it’d buy its gay citizens “a one-way ticket overseas,” Russian media followed Trump’s tweets about banning transgender people from serving in the US military closely.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump tweeted that transgender individuals would not be permitted to serve in the US military “in any capacity” due to the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” their service would allegedly cause.
If implemented, the move would be a direct reversal of former President Barack Obama’s 2016 decision to allow people of all genders to serve openly.
While Russian state-owned media’s strategy has been to consistently ignore coverage of LGBT rights in its own country (most Kremlin-backed papers reiterated the government’s denial of uncovered “death camps” for gay men in Chechnya) it it has not shied away from covering Trump’s tweets this week.
“Trump announced that he made such a decision after consulting generals and other military experts,” wrote state-owned paper RIA Novosti. As only 16% of Russians feel that LGBT people should be accepted by society, many state-owned and independent newspapers published lengthy think-pieces on why Trump’s decision was correct.
Gazeta.ru cited head of Russia’s Association of Human Rights Lawyers Maria Bast to say that officers in the military had a right to be wary of allowing transgender people to serve in the military.
“Even if the boss of a military lawyer does not care about the status of his gender, a different soldier may need to perform other physical tasks [not corresponding to one’s gender]” the paper wrote.
Even before Trump tweeted about the ban, Kremlin-owned Russia Times published an article saying that 48% of Americans supported excluding gay people from the military and cited various American people who opposed transgender rights.
Daily tabloid paper Moskovskij Komsomolets even went so far as interviewing “sexual pathologist” Nikolay Poderin to explain why transgender people will cost the US military “a pretty penny.”
“For many transgender people, [sex reassignment surgery] is the primary goal in life while everything else, including military service, is a secondary plan,” Poderin told MK.
“What is going on in the soulless USA?” wrote journalist Anastasia Semenovich sarcastically in a news brief for website Saint-petersburg.ru. “[Transgender people] could never serve and now they simply can’t again.”
Only Dozhd, one of the most progressive independent news channels in Russia, has repeatedly taken a stance in support of transgender people — whether by covering Trump’s announcement seriously or publishing a video of a transgender Chechen man who, after fleeing the USA, asked President Vladimir Putin how he could “sleep at night.”
That said, Russian media overwhelmingly used the ban to show how the US was making the right move after a year of “craziness” — such as when Gazeta.ru wrote that “this type of problem” should not be too pressing in Russia, where transgender people “have a right to exist” but need to leave service.
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