They may try, but our dignity remains…

Honor is something that many strive for but few attain. In our present day, the increasingly rare distinction of serving in the armed forces is a sure avenue for service to the nation and as a means of being imbued with this elusive virtue. We celebrate the men and women who have served. We glorify their sacrifices and look upon them with reverence and even awe. Military service was one of the few ways for a plain, lower middle-class kid like myself to obtain dignity and validation of my worth and merits. In my small, southern town, folks loved Jesus, barbecue, football, and the troops (perhaps not in that order…) Therefore, to serve my country and my community seemed a way to join the pantheon of heroes who were honored in parades and upon our local monuments. When being paid far less than someone outside of the service with equivalent education and experience, this is one of the very few perks!

I served in the U.S. Army for over 18 years and worked my way from the rank of private to captain. Through strength of will and by determination, I, a relatively unremarkable person from the heart of Appalachia was given responsibility for millions of dollars of military hardware and the command of remarkable men and women from all walks of life. I have been the target of snipers. I was nearly killed in an IED explosion on a dusty road from Tikrit to Mosul in Iraq. I experienced great fear, exhilaration, loss, and loneliness being so far from home and my family. Yet, I did my duty and I held the line! And yes, I was a deeply closeted transgender women the whole time!

To say that I am deeply affected by the implementation of President Trump’s transgender military ban in an understatement! In a society that misunderstands and sometimes even physically harms transgender people, I have managed to retain my honor and dignity by my service to this nation. More than once, my time in the military has afforded me opportunities to demonstrate to the community at large that transgender people are not mentally ill, deviant, or somehow less than others. I personally know dozens of transgender men and women who have walked the same road exactly and are still risking their lives daily for everyone- even those that seek to discriminate against and belittle us. Many have earned the highest decorations for bravery and fidelity. Please consider that as you weight the effects of this ban. If this is allowed to stand, we seek to lose many wonderful, dedicated and brave individuals. The current administration may seek to ban us from serving but it will never take away our dignity as citizens of a grateful nation, our self-worth, or our pride!!!