Transgender veteran feels like 'political pawn' after Trump's military ban

Transgender Arkansan worried after military ban

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - President Donald Trump announced Wednesday morning on Twitter that the U.S. will no longer allow transgender individuals to serve in the military.

Transgender people wanting to serve in the military were granted permission just over a year ago, but in a series of tweets President Trump announced that will no longer be the case.

After the ban was lifted last year, those affected were able to change their gender in the Pentagon’s computer systems. This June when the new rules were to be in place, they asked for more time. Now after President Trump's announcement, the new policies are reportedly being thrown out.

“I went the extra mile to make sure that my secret was mine," said one transgender veteran who asked us to keep their identity a secret.

Putting the country before himself, the veteran kept a huge secret during his six years of service in the Air Force. At just 17 years of age, he felt an obligation to serve.

"I felt like it was a patriotic duty," he recalled. "I was able and fit and I wanted to do it."

Born a girl, he decided to wait until he was out of the service to begin his transition, worried he'd get a dishonorable discharge.

"I didn’t want the repercussions, I didn’t want the backlash, I didn’t want my peers to judge me,” said the veteran.

In the surprise announcement Wednesday morning, President Trump reversed the pentagon’s short lived policy regarding transgender people tweeting:

“After consulting with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you”

“I have six years of good experience I went on two deployment and I’m physically fit and I’m able and I have leadership experience and you’re meaning to tell me that doesn’t mean anything anymore? It just hurts," said the veteran.

According to a 2016 military research study conducted by RAND, there are between 1,320 and 6,630 transgender men and women serving in active duty. That’s less than one percent of total service members.

"Me and my community kind of feel like a political pawn at the moment and it’s hard to feel like you’re less than a human," said the veteran.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters the decision was a difficult one for the president, but he believed it was the best solution.

"He's also voiced that this is a very expensive and disruptive policy and based on conversations that he's had with his national security team came to the conclusion that it erodes military readiness and unit cohesion," said Sanders.

"It’s like did what I did mean nothing? You really start to question," said the veteran, who is left with unanswered questions. “What’s going to happen if I try to access VA benefits? I don’t know anymore.”

Now, service leaders are waiting for direction.

Major Phillips with the Arkansas National Guard told us over the phone that they haven’t received guidance from the National Guard on implementation so for now, they are standing ready for direction from higher ups. He added that he doesn’t see it being a major impact here, but they are, as always, concerned for the safety of service men and women.

© 2017 KTHV-TV


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