I’m an Iraq War veteran who is a trans woman, and let me tell you: banning transgender people from military service is morally wrong.
In 2003, I enlisted in the North Carolina National Guard at the age of eighteen.
I knew I needed to pay for college, and I needed some money to live on. More than that, I already knew that it was a hard world out there for trans girls like me. Enlisting in the military gave me the opportunity to invest my life in my nation. I also hoped that enlisting would mean no one could ever say that I wasn’t a real American, that I wasn’t a real member of the community, that I wasn’t a full 100% citizen.
So I enlisted, and I served in the North Carolina National Guard. My unit the 1/130th Aviation deployed to southern Iraq in 2009 and 2010. I became a chaplain’s assistant. Chaplains are ordained ministers and officers, and under the Geneva Convention they are non-combatants. Still, chaplains go to where the soldiers are, and that can mean being in danger. Because of that danger, you have chaplain’s assistants.
We are enlisted soldiers who do carry weapons. We serve as the body guard for the chaplain. The 1/130th was spread out over three bases in southern Iraq, so it was my job to move the chaplain safely from base to base and ensure that the chaplaincy mission was accomplished. Chaplain’s assistants are also there to help soldiers dealing with PTSD, substance abuse, family issues like divorce, and all the symptoms of war trauma.
I protected a conservative Southern Baptist chaplain in Iraq.
Together he and I took care of about 800 soldiers through their service in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Enlisting did a lot for me. The military paid for my education, trained me up in a profession, and gave me more friends and colleagues and connections than I could ever count.
Being a veteran has opened many doors for me. When I went to protest North Carolina’s House Bill 2 at the state legislature, congressmen would stop and have conversations with me because they knew I had served in Iraq. Right now I’m paying for seminary with the GI Bill.
And I am just one transgender veteran. 15,500 transgender adults are on active duty or serving in the Guard or Reserve forces. Transgender service members are neither a burden nor a disruption. They are brave, honorable people putting their lives on the line for all Americans.
These service members and all transgender Americans deserve not only respect, but also full access to citizenship with all its benefits, responsibilities, and burdens—including the benefits, responsibilities, and burdens of military service.
If trans people want to serve our nation, then they deserve our full respect and care.
This means transgender Americans who serve our nation deserve full access to necessary medical care, just like other service members. When he announced his intention to ban transgender people from military service, President Trump relied on the false claim that transgender medical care is a great financial burden. In reality, researchers Shiona Heru and William Padula have proven it is cost-effective to cover transgender healthcare.
See, it turns out that denying transgender people healthcare leads to serious and significant negative health outcomes. It is extremely bad for a person’s health in a variety of ways to be forced to live as the wrong gender. This truth is an observable reality. Denying transgender people who serve their nation healthcare is abusive. We need to do better.
Also, as Christians, let us remember that G-d promises love and salvation for gender minorities in Isaiah 56 at the heart of the Hebrew Bible’s messianic prophecy. Let us also remember that the very first gentile Christian was a gender minority.
Reinstating a ban on transgender service members wouldn’t erase us from the military.
It would instead deny care, benefits, and respect to the trans people who are already serving our country. We’re here, we’re not hurting anyone, and we deserve full access to citizenship and healthcare like everybody else.
Photo provided by Vivian Taylor