It’s unreal. It makes you feel insecure, lied to, deceived. There’s many ways to say how 26 July 2017 made us feel. I’m not talking just about the transgender men and women currently serving in the military like myself, but also the retired, the vets, and all other government employees who make up the Department of Defense. I first heard of the news around 0925, from some friends in England. They started messaging me, giving me their support no matter what. I didn’t really understand what they were referring to, so I carried on being part of the meeting I was in.
“MY NAME CHANGED, MY GENDER MARKER CHANGED, MY BODY AND EMOTION HAD CHANGED ALL WHILE STILL BEING ABLE TO BE READY AND IN SERVICE TO OUR COUNTRY.”
Then, a text from my First Sergeant came, similar to the ones my friends had sent. I excused myself to go to the restroom. Once outside the conference room, I went online, only to be greeted by the horrible “tweets”. At first it didn’t seem real, so I decided to do more searching on major news outlets and found how much of a headline it had become. My Instagram and facebook profiles were full of support for our community, and there were also messages of confusion and many more of anger. This made it real, confusion and uncertainty started creeping in. I couldn’t understand, I had just been allowed to transition while serving our country. My name changed, my gender marker changed, my body and emotion had changed all while still being able to be ready and in service to our country. So why was I suddenly, seemingly being pushed out?
When the meeting ended, I started being approached by my colleagues. They were all giving me their support, telling me to hang in there and that it was going to be alright and that they would stick with me no matter what happened next. All day I received support messages, people telling me how unfair it all seemed, that the trans community had every right to stand next to “normal” people and answer the higher calling of military duty. It was a positive thing to hear, to know that there are people in your corner of the ring ready to wipe the blood, sweat and tears from your face. Many others said that we shouldn’t take those “tweets” seriously, that once we saw it in black and white as policy we will know that something is happening.
I understand that, but this is not just about the consequences to vets in the military. This is about our country, where we the transgender community have just been persecuted in such a high profile manner by the highest in the land. We have just been called out as unfit for military service; not good enough to defend our nation, not good enough to preserve peace around the world or to answer the call to help our brothers and sisters in times of need through humanitarian efforts. We have just been told we are not important enough to have our medical necessities taken care of. This affects our capacity to function while serving, and it takes our focus off what we are supposed to be doing. And this not only affects us, but also affects our families, our spouses, our children, our friends. They see us in pain, in doubt, suffering in silence while we pretend we are ok, or unable to keep it together because we feel betrayed by our very own government.
This is about what may be next. If they come after the transgender community, will they try to reverse the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy? One can hope that the madness will stop soon, and that it doesn’t go that far. But now what? What do we do? What will happen if the transgender men and women truly get banned from military service again?
I’ll tell you what we don’t do: we don’t cower and hide. We don’t stay silent and accept this as just another thing to add to the long list of dark days. We don’t abandon each other, and we don’t become “sunshine soldiers” who only show up to support during Pride.
“THE ANSWER IS WE FIGHT, NOT WITH BULLETS OR STONES OR HATEFUL WORDS, BUT WE FIGHT WITH LOVE.”
The answer is we fight, not with bullets or stones or hateful words, but we fight with love. We fight by showing what we are truly made of and what makes us fighters. We show that our bonds as a community are strong and that we are here to stay.
No matter what they ban, what they don’t pay for, what they feel is not conductive to what they think is a “good military”, they will never be able to take away who I am or what I have accomplished. I am a human being, I am a transgender woman, I am a dad, I have been a son, I am a daughter, I have been a brother and now a sister. I am a friend to many and all. I have family and values. I laugh and cry and feel just like any other person. I have and AM serving my country.
We will never be banned from existing. No one can ban what we think and what we feel. No one can tell who we are and what we are. 26 July 2017 was just another bad day, we have had many of those, but it will pass and we will still be here. Today, tonight, whenever you read this, know that you are worthy of being who you are. Stand tall and smile with even more pride. Be fierce about your existence, and know that you are not alone and that with every step you take you carry all the love from all who know you, accept you, and support you for whom you are.
Stand ready! This is just the beginning of the battle.