I'm A Transgender Veteran And I Fought For Your Right To Hate Me

Photo: courtesy of the author
transgender soldiers

Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2017.

Each morning when I wake, I hit social media and the news. Sharing something profound or humorous is how I like to start my day. Believe me, when I tell you, I was in complete shock when I read a series of tweets by President Donald Trump exclaiming:


What started as shock immediately turned to seething anger. I have witnessed our president spew hyperbole and untruths for the past seven months, but this latest statement has lowered the bar for presidential discourse to an all-time low.

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For my own part, his announcement is a shadow of my own discharge when, in 1991 while serving in a Top Secret unit in the United States Air Force Space Command, it was discovered that I was transgender when I applied for my Top Secret clearance. My career plans were destroyed as well as my ability to pay for my continuing education.

There are so many unanswered questions right now. The Department of Defense is part of the Executive branch. In addition, as head of the Executive branch and Commander-in-chief of the military, I can only assume that Donald Trump does have the power to make policy.

However, his Twitter statement is so broad as to defy a narrow interpretation. For instance: ”...will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” Does he also mean that government employees that support the military will lose their job? Does this mean that private contractors that employ transgender people will have to let those people go?

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Moreover, ”...cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs...” is a complete misrepresentation of reality. Currently, the Williams Institute estimates the number of transgender service members at 15,000, while the RAND Corporation estimates the number to be 1,320-6,630 and estimates increased medical costs for transgender soldiers to be 2.4 to 8.4 million dollars.

However, if 6,630 soldiers are involuntarily separated, the cost to replace them will be tremendous. According to a 2002 study by the Lexington Institute, the cost to recruit, train, and equip a marine was around $45,000 while the cost to do the same for a West Point graduate fighter pilot was around $340,000.

If you were to assume they all cost the same as a marine, that would work out to $298,350,000. It would appear that the cost burden to retain transgender soldiers is much, much less. In addition, the new recruits will not have the years of experience the transgender soldiers already have.

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President Trump also believes that having transgender soldiers will be a “disruption” or affect military readiness, but our transgender soldiers have been able to serve openly since July 2016 and there have been no reports of their service having an adverse effect on military readiness or unit cohesion.

It is a cruel reality that some transgender soldiers, close to retirement, came out when open service was announced last year. Now they stand to lose the years they have invested. Likewise, many career soldiers do not have job skills that will easily translate to the civilian workforce.

For a president that publicly claims to value loyalty, he fails to comprehend that the ultimate loyalty is to voluntarily put one’s self in harm’s way for the service of their country.

All around the world, right now, soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are defending this country and they are wondering when their country is going to stand and defend them.

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Carla Lewis is a veteran of the United States Air Force Space Command serving in support of Operation Desert Storm and was discharged in 1991 when it was discovered she was transgender. She has tried to use her voice to advocate for equality for transgender people and speak for those that cannot speak out because of fear or intimidation.

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This article was originally published at The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.