There's 1 big difference between the American and British militaries.

The United Kingdom is one of the United States' closest allies.

(Soldiers running on a beach. Like you do).


And for the most part, our militaries are pretty similar.

But there's one big difference.

The United Kingdom allows trans men and women to serve openly in its armed forces. And despite the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the United States still does not.

Indeed, there is an enormous gap between being a trans soldier, sailor, or airman in a military that welcomes you with open arms and one that pretends you don't exist.

Ayla, the British Royal Air Force pilot featured in the documentary above, is allowed to serve openly as a trans woman. Which allows her to do her job better.

"When you have a diverse group where diversity is not just tolerated, but it's included and encouraged, that group — that organization — is more productive. It's just a nice place to work. It works better. Significantly better."
— Ayla, RAF pilot

Meanwhile, her American counterpart in the documentary can't even show her face or identify herself by name for fear that she'll be discharged.

"We work just as hard and we're just as good as anyone else. Just because we have a different view of ourselves doesn't mean we can't do the job. I think what it comes down to is they think we can't perform as well when, in fact, we perform just as well, if not better."
— Soldier, U.S. Army

Indeed. All the +1s, in fact.

Fiona Dawson is the filmmaker behind "TransMilitary," and the woman who interviewed both subjects.

I spoke to her via email about the process of collecting these stories, and what the future might hold for the American soldier who volunteered to speak out.

1. What inspired you to make the documentary?

I was inspired by the opportunity to tell untold stories that would make a significant impact on making the world a better place. As a bisexual woman who volunteered many hours advocating for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," I myself was shocked to learn that transgender people are still banned from serving in the U.S. Yet they can serve in 18 countries worldwide, including in the UK since 1999. [Ed. Note: In the video above, Fiona did say 13 countries, but 18 is actually the correct number.] I have a number of trans friends, and I wanted to direct my career into presenting and producing visual media that promotes human equality, so starting a project sharing the personal stories of awesome transgender service members seemed like the right thing to do.

Through working on this project, I'm inspired by how transgender service members overcome with an incredible show of strength the huge challenges imposed upon them by the military and society. I'm inspired by the lesbian trans woman I know who continues to serve despite being told she is not welcome at command social functions. When asked why, it's because she loves her job and she loves her country. What could be more "American" than that?

The goal is to give the largest, loudest platform for transgender people to be heard, so when people come to know that our similarities far outweigh our differences we will create a society with true equality. I believe that when Americans see how kick-ass transgender service members are, they will realize that they're equally kick-ass in civil society too.

2. Are you still in touch with your subjects? How have their careers evolved since the film was made?

Yes, absolutely I'm still in touch with the people I first got to know, and I have built relationships with many more over the past couple of years. There are 15,500 American transgender service members, many of whom are connected through a private group, SPARTA. I am fortunate to be connected with many SPARTANS who have trusted me to help share their stories. It's a privilege and a pleasure. At this point my "subjects" are my family. We chat every day throughout the day, and I get to hear every twist and turn in their experience of serving in the military: doing the job they love to the highest standard whilst risking discharge simply for not identifying with the gender associated with their sex assigned at birth (SAAB). In my mind this is gender discrimination.

The female in this video is still actively serving, but her situation is not secure by any means. Every day we're wondering, "Is she going to be next?" But then there are many people living circumstances like hers. The irony is that the estimate of 15,500 people makes America's military the largest employer of transgender people. A government organization whose outdated medical policies ban transgender service employs more such people than any other known entity.

It's hard to fathom that those who protect the home of the brave and the land of the free are not given the same respect and opportunity in life that they so fiercely defend.

3. What can people who want to end the exclusion of trans men and women from the U.S. military do to get involved?

People can help get to know trans service members and share their stories. It's a fact that media changes attitudes toward people. Open transgender service will happen when the Department of Defense updates its policies, but they need to have the political will to do it and the powers that be need to know their transgender service members.

We can't bring 15,500 people to the Pentagon, but we can bring a handful — who are courageously willing to risk their careers — to our media screens.

(This interview has been condensed for clarity).

In order to help end the ban on transgender soldiers, sailors, and airmen serving openly, please consider getting involved with the Transgender American Veterans Association.

Fiona and her partners are also looking for funding to complete their documentary project, which you can support here.

V, a friend of the American Soldier interviewed in the film, puts it best.


"She has chosen a career path to serve our country and support our country, and it would be awesome if our country would in turn support her."
— V

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

This article originally appeared on 11.21.16


Photographer Katie Joy Crawford had been battling anxiety for 10 years when she decided to face it straight on by turning the camera lens on herself.

In 2015, Upworthy shared Crawford's self-portraits and our readers responded with tons of empathy. One person said, "What a wonderful way to express what words cannot." Another reader added, "I think she hit the nail right on the head. It's like a constant battle with yourself. I often feel my emotions battling each other."

So we wanted to go back and talk to the photographer directly about this soul-baring project.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."