Air Force veteran who'd be banned under Trump: 'The 'T' isn't silent. We exist.'


Donald Trump followed through on his tweeted threat, issuing a hateful directive barring transgender Americans from serving openly in the military. But one transgender veteran shot down the bigoted "logic" behind the ban.

Even when it was merely a series of reckless tweets, Donald Trump's decision to ban transgender Americans from serving openly in the armed forces received immediate and vehement pushback.

Democrats and Republicans called Trump out for the callous move, a candidate for a position at the Department of Homeland Security withdrew his name from consideration, and dozens of retired generals slammed the ban as a move that would undermine the military.

And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that tweets would not be enough to demand implementation of the policy.

"There will be no modifications to the current policy until the President’s direction has been received by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary has issued implementation guidance," the chairman, Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, said at the time. "In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect."

Now that direction has come about. Late on Friday, as the nation watched a devastating hurricane approach landfall in Texas, Trump issued a directive to bar transgender people from enlisting in the military.

Of course, since the Obama administration had lifted the then existing ban in June 2016, transgender people have now been serving openly for some time. And many had surely been doing so for decades prior, keeping their identity hidden in order to serve their country.

Regarding those existing service members, the ban "gives Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wide discretion in determining whether those already in the armed forces can continue to serve."

According to a White House official, Mattis will consider "several criteria, including military effectiveness and budgetary concerns" in making his determinations.

But perhaps, for once, this administration can think more about the actual people impacted by their actions.

People like Liam, a United States Air Force veteran, who has a message for Trump and his team.

"Trans people have been serving in the military, honorably, for a long time. How should I know? Because I did, and a lot of my friends still are," Liam said.

Just like any other service member, transgender people fill critical roles in all branches of the military. Kicking them out "would not only cause major disruption in their personal lives, but would also affect the mission," Liam noted.

And considering what transgender service members have had to battle against to get where they are, it shows how dedicated they are to the work they're doing.

"So when we say 'support the troops,' we should really mean all troops," Liam declared.

"The 'T' isn't silent. We exist."

Lawmakers are also speaking out forcefully against this harmful move. In a statement, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed Trump for "ordering the Pentagon to hurt and humiliate thousands of Americans who serve in our military with strength and courage."

"Prejudice, not the national defense, is behind President Trump's cruel decision," she continued, calling on Trump to "have more respect for the transgender men and woman who had the patriotism and bravery to serve our country in uniform."

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer labeled Trump's move to "ban courageous transgender men and women from serving our nation's Armed Forces" in clear terms: "So sad, so weak."

And Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, wrote powerfully of her fervent opposition to the ban:

When I was bleeding to death in my Black Hawk helicopter after I was shot down, I didn't care if the American troops risking their lives to help save me were gay, straight, transgender, black, white, or brown. All that mattered was they didn't leave me behind.

Implementing this ban, Duckworth said, "is not just discriminatory; it is disruptive to our military and it is counterproductive to our national security."

On the campaign trail, Trump claimed he would be a great ally to the LGBTQ community. He is already proving how empty those promises were.

But as veterans like Liam make clear, the 'T' will not be silent in the face of this prejudice. Neither will principled lawmakers, experienced military personnel, or anyone who cares about the well-being of their fellow Americans.