The Military's First Openly Transgender Soldier Weighs In On Trump's Ban

Many veterans are speaking out.

President Donald Trump's announcement on Wednesday morning that the United States government would no longer "accept or allow" transgender people to serve in the military "in any capacity" has stirred many people to action, trans activists, allies and veterans alike. That includes Shane Ortega, who was reportedly the first out trans soldier to serve in the U.S. military.

"To be quite frank, my first thought was, 'fuck!'" Ortega told Mic in a phone interview this morning. He likely wasn't alone in his shock. Trump made the shocking announcement on Twitter, writing that he had consulted with generals and "military experts" about the decision.

"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," he argued.

According to Mic, Ortega is a retired Army sergeant who served as a helicopter crew chief in the 25th Division and has spent eight years fighting for the rights of his fellow trans soldiers. He co-founded "a chapter of a nonprofit that focuses on serving the specific needs of transgender military personnel in active service," and serves as a board member of the organization 41percent — a reference to the 41 percent of trans people who reportedly attempt suicide.

In his interview, Ortega expressed his wish that more Americans would react to the controversial policies of the current administration: "What more will it take for people in this country to become really outraged?"

He went on to tell MSNBC of himself and his fellow trans service members, "We give every ounce of everything we have to this country."

Trump's ban would reverse a decision made by the Obama administration last year to allow transgender people to openly serve. A study by the RAND Corporation cited by the New York Times found that there are between 1,320 and 6,630 active duty trans service members in the military, adding that it's "difficult to estimate." It also reported that allowing transgender people to serve would "have minimal impact on readiness and health care costs."

This morning's news only adds to the Trump administration's previous decisions against LGBTQ people, including a rollback of Obama's guidance protecting trans students in public schools. In a statement, Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, called the latest announcement "a worse version of 'don't ask, don't tell,'" the former policy (also repealed by Obama) banning gay and lesbian people from serving openly in the military.

Ortega and Belkin are joined by many others in speaking out against Trump's decision. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) even put the effectiveness of Trump's tweet into question, writing on Twitter, "Military rules and regulations allow trans people to serve their country. Even the commander-in-chief cannot change those via Twitter. Until those rules are changed, trans people can serve openly. If those rules are changed, we stand ready to take legal action."


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