LCD Soundsystem’s Gavin Russom calls President Trump’s decision to ban transgender people from military service “heartbreaking” in a Wednesday interview with Billboard.
Russom, who came out as trans earlier this year in an INTO profile, sat down with transgender rapper KC Ortiz to discuss the recently enacted policy. In a series of tweets posted in July, the president claimed that allowing trans people to serve in the military is expensive and a disruption. A Friday memo signed by Trump put that proposal into action, even despite the fact that both of the president’s claims have been debunked.
“When I found out about it, it was… heartbreaking,” Russom tells the music magazine. “I was getting on the plane to my job, being a touring musician, and I thought, ‘Well, what if the order was that there can’t be trans people in the music business?’”
Although the 43-year-old is “anti-war,” she claims that it’s a complex issue for the trans community. Many transgender people, Russom says, enlist in the armed forces because they don’t have another choice. Trans troops might be kicked out of their homes after coming out and struggle to find another job due to discrimination.
“The military is almost a refuge for them, especially people who come from economic backgrounds where college is out of reach,” Russom claims. “It’s a place to have basic needs taken care of.”
Ortiz, an air force veteran who came out after serving, says her experience was similar. The rapper initially didn’t want to sign up for the military. The reason she went into the armed forces, Ortiz tells Billboard, is that her mother thought that it would make her straight. The day that she left for the military, Ortiz says her mother reminded her that she wouldn’t be welcomed unless she changed.
“You’re not my child,” Ortiz remembers her mother saying.
“When I was in the Air Force, all I was thinking was ‘I have nothing to go back to,’” Ortiz explains, “and the first thing I thought of was how many people are in the military right now in the same situation where they have nothing to go back to.”
Estimates vary on the number of people who stand to be discharged by the military when the police takes effect in March. The Williams Institute, a pro-LGBTQ think tank at the University of California Los Angeles, hasclaimed that more than 15,500 trans peopleserve in the armed forces. The Rand Corporation, however,tabulated the military’s trans populationas numbering between 1,300 and 6,600 people.
The Trump policy will give Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis wide discretion to decide on whether or not to relive troops of their duties, which will be determined on a case-by-casis basis.
Ortiz calls the Trump memo “blatant discrimination.” Russom adds that the decision was meant to divert the public’s attention from the many scandals that continue to plague the White House. Prior to the announcement of Trump’s trans military ban, the president received widespread condemnation for his failure to condemn white supremacy following the violence in Charlottesville.
“It’s about distracting people from what’s really going on, but it affects real people’s lives,” Russom claims.
Russom is set to begin touring next month with LCD Soundsystem, the acclaimed indie band in which she plays the synthesizer. The dance punk group’s fourth album, American Dream, is due out Friday.