President Donald Trump — who avoided the draft because his feet hurt and once described avoiding a venereal disease as his own “personal Vietnam” — abruptly banned transgender individuals from serving in the military Wednesday, claiming they create “tremendous medical costs and disruption.”
An estimated 15,500 transgender Americans serve in the military through active duty or the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, and many of them want Trump to know they aren’t going to take his orders quietly: “I have never described myself as trans; I’m a motherfucking marine,” one corporal explained to the Air Force Times. “That‘s all that matters. Don’t tarnish my title with your bigotry and fear of the unknown.”
Dozens of current and retired transgender members of the military are speaking out, though many active members have requested anonymity for fear of being publicly identified under Trump’s new directive.
Those who are going on the record, however, aren’t mincing words.
President Trump “is doing this country an injustice,” openly transgender active Army staff sergeant Logan Ireland said in a statement posted on Twitter. “I would love for my president to meet me so I can tell him about the 15,500 honorably serving transgender military members that are fighting right now for their liberties and for their country.”
Lt. Cdr. Blake Dremann, who was the first transgender service member promoted after the ban was lifted in 2016, told CNN’s Jake Tapper Wednesday that he’s worried he’ll be kicked out of the Navy.
“We’ve already been serving [openly] for over a year. We’ve caused no disruptions,” Dremann said. “We are company commanders, special operators, drill sergeants who are continuing to do the mission… This has been a bit of a shock.”
“I will continue to report for duty in the uniform of the day until I am forced to receive my DD214” discharge papers, Sgt. Jack Schuler, a transgender man, former Marine and current Army reservist told the Air Force Times. ”I love serving this country and its people… I love being a part of this military family. My dream is to retire after a long career. I’m not going anywhere, anytime soon.”
“Let’s meet face to face and you tell me I’m not worthy,” Kristin Beck, a transgender retired Navy SEAL who won a Purple Heart, told Business Insider. “Transgender doesn’t matter. Do your service.”
“Transgender service members are proudly serving our country and we will continue our service,” Patricia King, a transgender Army Staff Sergeant who said the tweet felt like a public firing, told CNN. “Nobody is going to just walk away because we have a job to do.”
“It’s just a shot in the face,” transgender U.S. Navy sailor Kasia Celeste told the Huffington Post. “A lot of us are scared and angry because we all signed up to do the same job. Who has the right to say you can’t fight for your country?”
“Anyone who serves in the military has that commonality — they are willing to give the greatest sacrifice for our country — and now our government doesn’t want to give us the smallest concession to do that, to serve like anybody else,” Kendall Balentine, who served in the Marines for eight years and the Army for three, told the Daily Beast. “He’s empowering people in the military to believe in something that’s not true.”
“To be quite frank, my first thought was, ‘Fuck!’” retired Army sergeant and trans activist Sean Ortega told Mic. “Trump is a man who is literally a war-dodger, who comes from a life of privilege and silver spoon, who has no connection to reality whatsoever, and I don’t know how much more the American public needs to see that.”
Sheri Swokowski, a retired Colonel and the highest ranking transgender military officer ever, said the military would be better off for allowing people to be who they are.
“I would’ve been a better leader if it was out in the open,” she told Business Insider. “Being out in the open allows trans service members to focus on the jobs they’re doing, with no fear of being outed.”
“I spent almost 10 years in the Army. During that time, I spent time struggling with my gender identity and left the service at the peak of the war in Iraq,” retired transgender Army veteran Amanda Kerri wrote in an essay published on The Advocate. “I, and many like me, would probably have stayed in the service if they could have only been able to be themselves.”