Iowa Rep. Steve King, a Republican, on
Friday delivered a speech on the House floor in which he compared
transgender troops to castrated slaves.
King, a vocal opponent of LGBT rights,
made his remarks on the day the Republican-controlled House narrowly
defeated an amendment which sought to prohibit the military from
offering transition-related health care to transgender troops.
rejects Vicky Hartzler amendment that sought to block health care for
Allowing transgender troops to serve
openly, King said, is “an indication of a civilization killer.”
King compared the current debate to
castrated slaves in the 16th century Ottoman Empire.
“I think of the circumstances in a
little bit older history, back in the 16th century and the 17th
century when the Ottoman Empire and the Muslim armies were sweeping
across the countryside, and whoever they captured, they pressed into
slavery.” King said. “And when they pressed them into slavery,
they wanted to have their crack troops – they were called
Janissaries, and there were other troops too, as well. But what they
did in order to keep them from reproducing was that they did
reassignment surgery on those slaves that they captured, that they
had put into their Janissary troops, and that reassignment surgery
was they took them from being a virile, reproductive male into being
King explained that eventually the
Ottoman Empire ended the policy.
“That is a lesson of the [Ottoman
military],” King said.
He also suggested that transgender
troops enter the military solely for the transition health care.
“This policy clearly enacted, clearly
advertised, is a neon sign for people who want to have sexual
reassignment surgery,” King said. “They will line up at their
recruiter’s office and they will go into the military, and the
military will be saying: 'You know, we had to turn this person away
because they were too heavy, and this one had flat feet, and this one
had a bad eye, and this one had a congenital defect of one kind or
another, but if they don’t have those and they want sexual
reassignment surgery, we will cut them up and remake them into
One Iowa condemned King's remarks,
calling them “absolutely unacceptable.”
“Not only does he compare transgender
troops to castrated slaves, but he insinuates that transgender people
going into the service only do so to get free surgery,”
said. “People join the military for a multitude of reasons, and
the same goes for transgender individuals. To group all transgender
people together and claim they all intend to somehow game the system
is not only false, but contributes to harmful and untrue stereotypes
transgender people face that contribute to harassment and violence.”