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Here's what actual trans military voices have to say about Trump's ban.

An estimated 15,000 trans people currently serve in the military.

In June 2016, the U.S. secretary of defense made a long-overdue announcement: The military was ending its ban on transgender service members.

With the 2011 end to the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy banning gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from serving, allowing trans people to serve openly seemed like the logical next step.

As then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter explained, “Our mission is to defend this country, and we don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualifications to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission.”


Fast-forward a year, and President Trump has undone that progress, tweeting that "the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military."

He cited "tremendous medical costs" as the reason behind his decision despite the fact that a RAND Corporation study found that the total additional cost of allowing trans people to serve in the military is $2.4 million-8.4 million. (For comparison, in 2014, the military spent more than 10 times that on erectile dysfunction medication alone.)

But maybe Trump's decision wasn't about cost at all. According to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, a Trump administration official was quoted as saying the move "forces Democrats in Rust Belt states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, to take complete ownership of this issue."

"How will the blue collar voters in these states respond when senators up for re-election in 2018 like Debbie Stabenow are forced to make their opposition to this a key plan of their campaigns?" Swan quoted the official as saying.

In other words, Trump's decision doesn't seem to be about readiness, cost, or any of the other reasons frequently tossed around by opponents of trans inclusion in the military. Instead, it's just a game of politics, with trans lives as pawns.

There are currently an estimated 15,000 trans people serving in the military. What do they think of Trump reinstating the ban? We asked them.

Amanda Clark was discharged back in 2007 after coming out as trans. While she says she's ambivalent about military service, she sees this as a matter of basic civil rights.

"I can’t possibly fathom what openly out trans people in the military are feeling right now. Hell, I feel scared now just being a trans person in the civilian world. It feels like the f*cking fascists who run this country are coming for us, and openly serving trans people are next. I’m sure a lot of officers/[non-commissioned officers] are going to be thrilled to get involved in paperwork hell discharging folks."

Kristen Carella, who served on active duty 2001-2005 as an intelligence analyst stationed in Germany, pointed out that many U.S. allies (18 in total, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom) allow trans people to serve without issue.

"Here was an opportunity for this country to move forward, recognizing the sacrifices transgender people have ALWAYS made in the armed forces, by allowing us to serve openly. [According to Human Rights Campaign] stats 26% of the trans community serves in the military at some point during their lives, that is TWICE the rate of the general population.

Trump's decision is a stunning reversal that can be taken only as a slap in the face, personally to every transgender person who has ever served. It accomplishes nothing more than making sure transgender people remain a demonized and hated target that right-wing politicians can target to scare their base and push their agendas. Of course, all of this demonization ensures that the ignorant violence which leads bigots to murder transgender people in the streets (particularly trans women of color) will continue."

Penelope R., an intersex trans woman who served in the Air Force for six years before leaving to pursue transition, says "members are going to die" because of this new policy, and she urges those who might not generally support the military to care about this.

"[The] American military, despite its many infelicities, has always been a reliable space for many kinds of marginalized people to hide out in. This is why trans people are disproportionately represented in the military.

Enlisting was always a last resort for me — I've known I was trans since I was a child, and knew going into the military meant carving away parts of my identity I cherished, but at the time the alternative was death. Just death. I chose to live, and as a result I met my wife, found a chosen family that makes the sun rise for me, made enough money to afford transition, and qualified me to receive transitional health care from the Illinois VA. ... The military helped make my life worth living. And now it's all gone to shit for everyone.

Despite what he says, there's nothing Trump can say or do to stop trans people from serving — he can only get rid of those he knows about. It will only go back to how it was before, with trans service members confined to the closet at the risk of their careers."



Then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter lifts the ban on trans troops on June 30, 2016. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

Landon Wilson, who served in the Navy and was the topic of a widely read 2014 Washington Post profile about trans people in the military, points out that the  ban means "honorably serving people" will be removed from service, "effectively weakening our country."

"It's a heartbreaking shame that the President of the United States is choosing to ignore the sacrifices of transgender service members, particularly at a time where so many have proven their dedication to this country. A diverse military makes a strong military; by removing honorably serving people from service, the President is effectively weakening our country, both as a fighting force and as a leader in civil rights."

Vivian Wise, an information systems technician on active duty in the Navy, came out to her shipmates the day President Obama and Secretary Carter lifted the ban in 2016. She disagrees with President Trump's assertion that trans people serving in the military is a "disruption."

"To say that my service has been a 'disruption' is an outright lie. My Commanding Officer, immediate superiors and co-workers have all been fully supportive of me. I am one of the senior technicians within my division, responsible for training our new sailors and managing our day-to-day and week-to-week work list. I was, until just now, being groomed to lead one of our division's two watch teams for our upcoming deployment, beginning late next year. In that capacity, I serve a critical role in my work center.

Summarily discharging me from military service, for nothing more than petty bigotry and electoral politics, is the disruption. The GOP as a whole, and the Trump administration in particular, are degrading my unit and hundreds if not thousands of other units across the armed services by taking away valuable people. We, and the American people, deserve better than this."

Cisgender allies, activists, and experts are voicing their concerns, as well.

In an email, TransMilitary co-director and executive producer Fiona Dawson (who, in 2015, documented the story of two trans service members who fell in love) weighed in on the move, saying she hopes Trump will actually take the time to meet some of the trans personnel he deems unfit for service.

"Donald Trump's assertions against transgender service members are baseless. Science and ethics determine there is no rational reason why the thousands of transgender women and men who have been defending our country and fighting for our freedom for hundreds of years should not be permitted to continue doing so."

Former Secretary Carter offered his opinion on the reinstatement of the discriminatory policy as well, saying that it "has no place in our military."

Advocacy organizations and civil rights groups across the country are issuing press releases, denouncing the tweet on a number of grounds.

The Palm Center called this "a worse version of 'Don't Ask Don't Tell'" and hit Trump over his claims of "tremendous costs."

"As we know from the sad history of that discredited policy, discrimination harms military readiness. This is a shocking and ignorant attack on our military and on transgender troops who have been serving honorably and effectively for the past year. As former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen stated yesterday, their service must be respected. The Rand Corporation has estimated that the cost of medical care for transgender troops is approximately one one-hundredth of one percent of the military annual health care budget, or at most, $8.4 million per year. To claim otherwise is to lie about the data."

Tyler Deaton of the American Unity Fund, a conservative LGBTQ organization, criticized Trump for going back on what he saw as LGBTQ-friendly campaign promises in a statement that is long but worth reading in its entirety:

"President Trump promised to protect the transgender community. As President, he said he was 'respectful and supportive of LGBTQ rights' and would 'protect the community from violence and oppression.' But President Trump has broken his promise and, coupled with his administration's efforts to roll back protections for transgender students in our nation's public schools, he is developing an undeniable pattern of anti-gay and anti-transgender policy while in office. ... As conservatives and advocates for LGBTQ freedom, AUF calls on President Trump to reconsider his comments, and stand with all of our soldiers, including those who are transgender."

Former Justice Department official Vanita Gupta, currently president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, slammed Trump's move as "yet another broken promise to the American people."

"President Trump doesn't understand that our military is stronger when there are no discriminatory barriers to service. The civil and human rights community will continue to loudly and proudly stand up for the rights of all who are willing to protect the security of our country, including the thousands of transgender people currently serving in our military."

And of course, there was pushback from a number of Democratic and Republican politicians alike.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California) commented on the sad irony of Trump's decision to increase discrimination on the 69th anniversary of President Truman's order to desegregate the military.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) announced plans to introduce legislation that would overrule Trump's decision.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) highlighted the number of trans people serving in the military.

Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida), who has a transgender son, spoke out against it as well.

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts) offered to stand in solidarity with trans soldiers.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said "transgender people are people, and deserve the best we can do for them."

And Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called trans service members "patriots."

Trans people exist in the world and have every right to engage in the same activities and occupations as anybody else.

This is a big deal, and it's not just a distraction. Nobody should be discriminated against for who they are — not in the military, not in education, not in housing, not in employment, not in health care, not at all.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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