On The Transgender Military Ban

Every attack on the rights and liberties of transgender people makes us struggle to find a reason to live.

Five minutes ago, I threw my drumsticks across the room. Feeling defeated, I abandoned any hope of actually enjoying playing today. I am now sitting at my computer and feeling disgruntled as I type. I wish I could say I felt gutted, or consumed with anger or betrayal, but it is now firmly 2019, and that ship sailed two years and two months ago.

Of course the Supreme Court upheld the ban on transgender people in the military. Was there any doubt that Kavanaugh and the bro crew would do anything different? It was the first thing I saw when I opened my eyes and looked at my phone, and hours later, I am still trying to compose my thoughts.

I am a transgender American. I grew up in the kind of small town that the American military thrives on. Manufacturing has died, unemployment is high and so is opioid addiction. The Marine recruiter was on a first name basis with most students in my high school. I flirted with the idea of the Air Force seriously when I was in-between colleges for the same reason many do. Where I grew up is a dying sect of the American economy, and I wanted more opportunity for myself than I saw at the time.

While my thoughts on both my hometown and the military have changed, the former more positive than the latter, the same truths hold firm for many teenagers. Serving in the military opens a gateway for many young people that their economic surroundings cannot. A way to travel the world and live abroad, the means to acquire a skill and education that can serve them throughout adulthood.

I am a transgender American who has never spent a day in the military and today’s ruling was a knife to my chest. I am outraged that not every single American is as disgusted as I am, and I am insulted that this ruling was made in the midst of a shutdown that is forcing an entire branch of our military to work without pay. You are all stronger people than I am, and with more integrity than I can muster on my best day. I know as I type these words, there are many of you, in a uniform, somewhere across this planet serving a country that today decided you are not worthy to do so.

This is bigger than an attack on our transgender service personnel. This is telling every trans kid in this country that they are less than their cisgender peers. This is justifying why transwomen of color have a life expectancy that is 35 years. This ruling is why trans kids are attempting suicide at a rate of 50% and 30% for trans boys and girls respectively. Every attack on the rights and liberties of transgender people makes us struggle to find a reason to live.

My phone is an obnoxious beast today because I have people reaching out to make sure I am OK. I have people asking for my thoughts, for my feelings. Well here they are: I feel exhausted. I feel beaten and cast aside. It gets harder to keep fighting when these rulings and orders rip us apart as people. I keep preaching about not striving for anything less than liberty or death. But this is not where our stories end. We can do this, for no other reason than we must.

Asher Kennedy is a proud transman, queer advocate and freelance writer living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. He authors the bi-weekly column Asher’s World in Baltimore OUTloud and serves on the board of directors for Hagerstown Hopes (hagerstownhopesmd.org). He can be found discussing Star Wars and hockey at his day job at a local hotel and on Twitter @ItsAsherK

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