‘I will forever be an American soldier’
transgender service members respond to Trump’s Ban
By KARA MILSTEIN, KATY STEINMETZ and KIM BUBELLO
No one knows for sure how many transgender people have served in America’s armed forces, or are currently in uniform. But on July 26, President Donald Trump made it clear that he does not believe they should be allowed to serve “in any capacity.”
In a series of tweets, Trump argued that medical costs for transition-related care are too burdensome, and that having transgender people in the military causes “disruption.” The move seemingly reinstated a ban on open service that former President Barack Obama decided to lift last year, ending decades of what some describe as “serving in silence.” (The Pentagon says it is delaying action until it receives further guidance from the White House.)
Politicians, advocacy groups and LGBTQ individuals decried President Trump’s announcement. Meanwhile, transgender troops currently serving are struggling to understand what the President’s decision will mean for them in the immediate future. Among those who felt most blindsided by the reversal were transgender veterans, who by some estimates number more than 130,000 in the U.S.
Here, ten transgender troops and veterans respond to President Trump’s announcement.
‘we as a people must unite’
2017. Courtesy of Akira Wyatt
Akira Wyatt, age 25
Serving in the Navy at Camp Pendleton, California
I’m currently an active duty servicewoman . . . I have always had a strong lineage of military presence in my family. My dad is a proud and honorable Marine veteran who not only taught me to serve with honor but with truth to self and country. President Donald Trump’s tweets came as a major realization that we as a people must unite for a better cause. We are in a pivotal moment in our history which will determine how our future generations will carry on the torch of our country. I do believe that our government and its people will make the right decision for our country’s future.
‘Transgender people have served and died for this country’
2013. Courtesy of Jordan Blisk
Jordan Blisk, age 23
Served in the Air Force at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana
I’m a fifth generation serviceman, and my family has a tradition of honorable military service. I enlisted originally to pay for school and give me opportunities I didn’t have elsewhere . . . I am disgusted with the announcement. Transgender people have served and died for this country for decades without recognition or support. By the [Commander-in-Chief] legitimizing transphobia and bigotry through military policy, he legitimizes it in the public sphere as a whole.
‘an assault on the marginalized’
May 2017 Courtesy of Caden Davis
Caden Davis, age 21
Serving in the Army National Guard in Palmetto, Florida
My service means a great deal to me. I take pride from laying down the widely accepted stereotype that my generation has an inability to exhibit selfless behavior. One of the founding mantras of military service is just that: selfless service. My twin brother, who is currently stationed at Patrick Air Force Base, has equally committed himself to the defense of his country. It is difficult for me to accept that one of us is free to serve his country honorably while the other cannot . . . When news reached me of President Trump’s ban on transgender service, I was dejected and humiliated to say the least. This assumption that transgender soldiers are unfit to serve is not a personal attack against me, but an assault on the marginalized LGBT populous. The ramifications of this ruling, should it come to pass, would entail stripping capable soldiers of their part in the defense of this country.
‘it is in our core’
December, 2011 Courtesy of Madeline Martinez
Madeline Martinez, age 28
Served in the Army at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas and Fort Stewart, Hinesville, Georgia
My heart goes out to any of my military brothers and sisters who want to serve their country but now won’t be able to do so. Being transgender isn’t a choice. It is in our core that makes us exist as human beings. President Trump is not only banning Americans who want to serve, he is discriminating against a minority group who have been having to hide their gender issues in the service due to the discrimination and hardships that come along with being openly transgender.
These are individuals who are crucial to their missions and follow the Warrior Ethos: I will always place the mission first, I will never accept defeat, I will never quit, I will never leave a fallen comrade. Yet President Trump is taking these soldiers out of their positions, out of their jobs and out of their mission to serve the American people. He is telling the world that transgender individuals in America do not have the same rights as most of the American public . . . As a President he is to accept all the of the people who fall under the American flag.
‘the military needs to stay united’
July 2017. Courtesy of Emery van Broekhuizen
Emery van Broekhuizen, age 35
Serving in the Army Reserve at Denver, Colorado
The service to me is all about having the integrity to be courageous. In the past year, my choice to continue to serve my country had become a small act of courage. Now I am even more sure that my presence will continue to challenge those around me. The announcement . . . was shocking but mostly because of what it says to our transgender service members and citizens as a whole. “Divide and conquer” is not something that should happen within; the military needs to stay united in order to stay strong.
‘i was afraid of who i was’
January 2016. Courtesy of Kara Zajac
Kara Zajac, age 29
Served in the Navy at Fort Meade, Maryland
What does my service mean to me? Everything. Without the military I would not be who I am today. I joined because I was afraid of who I was: a trans woman. The Navy is what gave me the courage and power to be myself and be accepted as myself among my peers. [When I heard Trump’s announcement] I was angry and sad. The military is a great organization that teaches you that as long as you can do your job, it doesn’t matter who you are.
‘a great deal of support’
December 2014. Courtesy of Natalie Rose
Natalie Rose, age 28
Serving in the Army National Guard in the 386th Engineer Battalion, Texas
Being in the military means a great deal to me. Both of my grandfathers were field grade officers in the military (one was a general), and five of my uncles and cousins on both sides have served. It would be my privilege to follow in their footsteps and to continue to serve honorably, if allowed to do so . . . When I saw the news this morning, I was shocked that steps may be taken to remove me from the service on the basis that I am trans. Although I am not yet out to my unit, I foresee there a being a great deal of support, and I do not foresee my status negatively impacting our mission in the slightest.
‘I forever will be an American soldier’
November 4, 2016. Courtesy of Jayceon Taylor
Jayceon Taylor, age 20
Serving in the Army in Seoul, South Korea
My service means everything to me, as it should. I have watched my father serve his country as a United States Marine for over 20 years . . . I came out as a trans man in 2016 before the ban was lifted and always thought that I would not be able to do what I wanted in life because it would comprise my happiness and who I am. Later that year an Army recruiter got in touch with me stating that the ban was lifted and that I did not have to choose anymore and that was the happiest day of my life.
Once I got to Korea, it took about three months for me to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria and start [hormone] treatment. My peers and commanders have just started to use the proper pronouns with me and give me nothing but support. Now it’s like all of this was for nothing: the doctor appointments, the long conversations with my peers, the time and energy spent on the readiness of all of this. I am capable of protecting my country despite what I’m going through mentally and physically. How I define myself should not ban me from serving my country. If I’m protecting everyone, why is no one protecting me? My name is Jayceon Taylor and no matter what happens, I forever will be an American soldier.
‘My service is my life’
2008. Courtesy of Kimberly Morris
Kimberly Morris, age 47
Served in the Marine Corps in Iraq
My service is my life. I enlisted out of college and spent the rest of my life in service of the defense of this nation. I guess I bought into the ideals that our country was founded on: democracy, freedom, equality, liberty. Those meant something, and I was proud to help perpetuate those ideals overseas while protecting them here at home. To this day, I continue to serve as a contractor working for the [Department of Defense] in the Pentagon. The difference is that I am happier and more eager to give back to the organization that has allowed me to live authentically for the first time in my life. Fortune 500 companies get it. I am shocked that the President does not.
I was disgusted [at Trump’s announcement]. I know many of the brave men and women still serving. They are the best of the best. We are pushing away very talented people, not because they cannot do the job, but because they are different. My patriotism and service should not have an asterisk attached to it. I answered my nation’s call and served honorably, just as my brothers and sisters are currently doing.
‘I will never quit’
July 2017. Courtesy of Lauren Greenford
Lauren Greenford, age 23
Serving in the Army at Fort Hood, Texas
I’ve served two years in the Army as a Signal Officer at Fort Hood. When I heard the news, I felt guilty at the thought of my brothers- and sisters-in-arms deploying soon without me. The time is 14:42 and I’m still serving, following our Warrior Ethos: I will never quit. I’ll step down when I’m given a more official order.
Correction: The original version of this story misstated the military branch that Akira Wyatt serves in. She is in the United States Navy, not the Marines.