As a military veteran and proud transgender woman, the Trump administration's attempted ban on transgender people in the military hits home for me. It's personal.
For over three years, I carried caskets in Arlington National Cemetery. I folded American flags for loved ones. I ceremoniously unloaded transfer cases of the remains of our fallen warriors in uniform being carried home from Iraq and Afghanistan to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Every casket and transfer case I carried was covered by an American flag. Every single one. And that is all I remember about any of them. I never knew their race. I never knew their religion or education or birthplace.
I didn't know their political party or who they voted for. I didn't know what music they liked or their guilty pleasure movie or what they did with their friends on the last Saturday night in their hometown before shipping out to war.
I'll never know the names of their parents and spouses and children. I'll never know the intimate details of their personal lives. I'll never know who they loved and how they saw themselves in the world.
All I know about those I carried was that they died in selfless service, and they wore the flag of this country to the grave.
No one at Dover Air Force Base or Arlington National Cemetery asked if those we buried were secretly transgender. It didn't matter then, and it certainly doesn't matter now.
The lies perpetuated about transgender people serving in the military have been thoroughly debunked and rejected, by medical experts, by budget analysts, by military generals and admirals, by the vast majority of the American people, and not least by a history of Americans who have been barred from service and proved bigots wrong.
They barred men of color. They barred women. They barred gay, lesbian and bisexual people. We have been at this intersection of fear, cynicism, and outright ignorance many times, and we are always reminded that the only true threats to our country's strength are hatred and an absence of character.
And yet, even while all this takes place, there are thousands of openly transgender service members – trained professionals, some of the best and brightest our military has to offer – serving right now, many of them in combat zones. Despite the stress and anxiety from a commander-in-chief who has no faith in them – a commander-in-chief who himself never served a single day in uniform – they continue to meet the highest standards of excellence.
Given all this, I have to ask my fellow Americans: Is this what we want our beloved country to stand for?
Charlotte Clymer is an Army veteran and press secretary for Human Rights Campaign.
For more info:
- Trump announces via tweet a transgender ban in military (7/26/17)
- (CBS News, 3/24/18)
- (CBS News, 1/22/19)
- (CBS News, 3/08/19)
Story produced by Sara Kugel.