Identity / Life

Trans-military: A Personal Perspective on Serving

VillageQ is honored to publish this guest post from a trans member of the United States Air Force whose identity must remain anonymous as long as trans men and women are denied protection within the U.S. military. We bring you an open letter addressed to all those who may wonder what the military has to offer this particular trans officer.


As a transgender military officer, people may want to know why I joined the military in the first place and why I stay.

Why I joined.
Its funny. When I decided to join the military, it wasn’t because I had this great need to fight for my country. It was for a more selfish and desperate reason: to save myself. You see, my dad had died approximately six months prior to enlisting, and I felt myself spiraling into an unknown and destructive abyss – a point from which there would be no return. I had to act fast and be proactive. What could I do? My brother joined the army. He started in the infantry, but I hoped that if I joined the military with four years of college behind me, I would be officer material. I set my sights on the Air Force because of its high testing requirements and overall reputation.

What the military provides.
In the military, I found camaraderie, dedication, belonging, and self-worth that was lacking in my life up until then. During basic training, I was surrounded by people who had been mentally stripped down to the bare bones and rebuilt to become part of a team, a unit more concerned with the good of the group than the needs of the individual. I believed that I could not even function as an individual any longer. The success of the military depends on all of us opting into the belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and finding self worth in being a part of that whole.

I stood by people who at one time were complete strangers, but we spent nine weeks getting to know each other intimately. By the end of our training, we knew each other’s highest aspirations and worst nightmares, but we were united in one cause – to be the best “wingmen and fighting” machines, we could be. We were bound by the rules of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Airman’s Creed:

The Airman’s Creed[1]

I am an American Airman.

I am a Warrior.

I have answered my Nation’s call.

I am an American Airman.

My mission is to Fly, Fight, and Win.

I am faithful to a Proud Heritage,

A Tradition of Honor,

And a Legacy of Valor.

I am an American Airman.

Guardian of Freedom and Justice,

My Nation’s Sword and Shield,

Its Sentry and Avenger.

I defend my Country with my Life.

I am an American Airman.

Wingman, Leader, Warrior.

I will never leave an Airman behind,

I will never falter,

And I will not fail.

US Air Force trio

Why stay and live a secret life?

You may ask,”Why do you stay in an organization that does not recognize you as a human being but as a ‘psychosexual misfit’?” We stay because we belong. This is all we have known since we were children. I think of the Air Force as the dad I lost when I was the young, tender age of 23. The Air Force gave me my basic needs as identified by Maslow’s hierarchy: physiological, safety, love, and self-esteem as well as self-actualization. The Air Force became my parent when I had lost the one person who had supported me emotionally, physically, and financially. Beyond security, the Air Force provided me with an education, skills, opportunities to travel, and the the profession that I still hold today.

Why isn’t leaving the military an option?

For every military person, the answer different. My reasons are two-fold:

1. I have earned the right to serve. I have served 24 years with numerous deployments in which I helped protect and save lives. Although I am Trans, I will never admit it for fear of losing my pension and the benefits to be inherited by my spouse and my children; my legacy. I deserve the right to retire in whatever rank I choose without feeling coerced or lesser because I do not fit within  a regulation that the military says I should. I have earned it. It is my right.

I am proud of my accomplishments as an active member of the military and a veteran. I started out as an A1C, 2nd and worked my way up to a Captain in the Air Force, a feat that no one should feel ashamed of, but being Trans negates that in some people’s eyes. I earned that rank and the rights and benefits that come with it. I will be damned if anyone tries to take that away from me.

2. My military service is my identity and my legacy, and to deny those parts of me would be to deny my past and who I have become. I once described leaving the military like losing an appendage and its absence would be a daily reminder of physical and emotional loss.

Perspective.

Presently, there are several prominent studies determining that there is “no compelling medical reason” to continue to deny open military service to transgender Americans, as a March study backed by a former U.S. Surgeon General and performed by the Palm Center concluded. A nine-member commission, including several retired generals and flag officers, concluded a three-month study in August with the recommendation that changing the current regulations to allow Trans citizens to serve openly would be “neither excessively complex nor burdensome.”

Indeed, 18 countries in Europe and elsewhere have already allowed Trans citizens to serve openly without issue. Military commanders and veterans from several of those nations, including the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Australia, and Canada gathered in Washington, D.C., in October to participate in a first-of-its-kind conference titled Perspectives on Transgender Military Service from around the Globe. That same month, California congresswoman and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi became the first sitting politician to actively endorse a repeal of the regulation banning trans people from serving openly.

I stay in the military because there is hope, hope that one day I can serve openly without fear of being discharged, dishonorably or administratively, losing my benefits or pension based on an archaic regulation written out of time and context.

Signed,

Trans Officer in the United States Air Force

 

 


 

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3 Comments

  1. In 1976, after eight years in the Air Force (rank of E-5) and while on duty at Kadena AB Okinawa I spoke to a mental health professional concerning my gender identity confusion. I was promptly removed from service and medically evacuated back to the states in hand cuffs, ending my Air Force career. I was humiliated though I am proud of my service. I was a very good Airman as proven by the fact I made rank exceptionally fast and excellent performance reports. Being trans in no way deters from the high and honorable standards of the United States Air Force.

    • Deborah Goldstein says:

      Upsetting to learn of the disservice you suffered, Bobbie. I hope one day the U.S. Air Force (and all branches of military) can see that misunderstanding, fearing, and criminalizing trans soldiers flies in the face of those high and honorable standards.

  2. bobbie thank you for your service. if you don’t mind me asking what type of discharge did they render?

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