“Transgender service members in the U.S. military can now openly serve their country without fear of retribution, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced today, a policy decision that overturns the ban on transgender service across all branches of service, effective immediately. . . .
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Plans are in the works to lift the trans military ban, and a few in the military have let their superiors know that they’re trans. But we’re not there yet, and the road we’ve taken to get this far is littered with destroyed lives.
Trans woman April Epperson’s (not her real name) years of National Guard service turned into a full-time employment as a federal technician (civilians doing support work for the Guard) after a tour in Iraq. One of the conditions to staying in the federal technician program is remaining in the National Guard.
So when April was quietly asked to leave the National Guard following transition a few years ago, she also lost her full-time federally funded job — a job the federal government also trained her to do. The resulting double whammy for her: out of the military, and out of a high paying civilian job. Like many other trans people who were forced out of the military or found themselves suddenly out of a job, the bills didn’t go away — an unforseen second tragedy that surfaces after the initial one.
And there was a new hurdle – finding employment as a trans person. Even though April had comprehensive training, years of work experience, an honorable discharge, a wall of merits, commendations and accolades, no one will hire her. Her training is in a field in demand in the private sector, and the pay is accordingly high. To date however, she’s only been able to find work at nearly 1/3 of her former pay doing something else. The economic loss is just not hers’ she says, but the community’s as well — she no long can buy and consume goods, and the federal investment in her is wasted.
April’s area of expertise is a male dominated field. She said during a job interview she was once told, “You don’t look like the kind of woman who would work here.” She asked what do you mean? And he says “well you just look more like the kind of woman who would have a husband who works here.”
April then tells me about stress. She rarely talks about it she says, but it rivals any stress she ever experienced as a soldier in a combat zone and then some. She continues in her own words:
“Imagine spending 8 years of your life doing something. All of your schooling is in this field. You take pride in and love what you do. Then suddenly you lose your job and you can never work in that field again. All because of who and what you are. The cascade of horrible things that follows is something that destroys even the most resilient people.
You have an incredibly huge medical expense [transition] hardly anyone can afford to pay. It’s a huge cost to your lifestyle, mental and emotional state, the family, career, your home, social standing along with many other things. You watch as people you know within the [transgender] community pass away yet only those actually in the community are the only ones who seem to care.”
For a trans person to come out of this okay is an act incredible strength, April says, and something you’ll need later, when you get arrested for using a bathroom, or when a group of strangers decide you deserve to get beat up.
April does have this strength, and uses it to survive, and sometimes, to educate others on trans matters. But she is concerned for the future. In her corner of the world, especially for an ex-service personnel, it doesn’t look particularly bright.
I met April on social media three years ago. I changed her name for the purpose of this article as not to jeopardize future benefits due her. April is just one of likely tens of thousands transgender ex-service personnel who suffered a huge economic setback as a results of our military’s trans ban.
These people were major contributors to our society, not only economically, but also in service to our country. The longer the Department of Defense drags their heels on the panned lifting of the trans ban, the greater the pain for large number of transgender ex-service personnel.
Once the trans ban is lifted, recognition, and perhaps an apology, is due to those that served prior to the lifting of the ban.
I earlier wrote of the supposed lifting of the trans ban: https://lexiecannes.com/2015/07/13/u-s-defense-secretary-carter-transgender-ban-obsolete-orders-6-month-study-to-lift-ban/
A recent article in the NY Times discusses the stalled plan to lift the transgender ban. Since the announcement of plans to lift the ban, 77 service people have informed their superiors that they’re trans. While they’re not being asked to leave the military, they remain in limbo until action is taken. More: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/06/opinion/the-militarys-transgender-policy-stalled.html
UPDATE June 30, 2016 – Trans ban lifted: http://www.defense.gov/News-Article-View/Article/822235/transgender-service-members-can-now-serve-openly-carter-announces
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