18-year-old Nathan Brewer loved his senior trip to the Adirondack Mountains in June. His enjoyment not only stemmed from his time together with classmates, but Brewer said one of his biggest highlights was sleeping in the male cabins since no one was opposed to his desires to do so.
Throughout his high school career, Brewer’s peers have continually accepted him. Whether he performed in Beauty and the Beast or played on the all-male high school baseball team, Brewer kept finding himself more comfortable with his gender expression.
Brewer attends Tompkins Cortland Community College in Cortland, New York. However, these were not his original plans. Despite pursing a college education, Brewer’s true passion is becoming a marine for the United States military. And in the next six months, it sounds like his dream may come true.
On July 31, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter released a memo stating a trans-related policy change within the U.S. Army’s medicalization standards. As of July 13, trans U.S. soldiers may be discharged from service only by the Brad Carson, the Pentagon’s top official for personnel. But Carter stated he will develop a plan to incorporate trans-identifying troops across military ranks by the end of May 27, 2016.
Brewer said he was elated to hear the news. But he also said he will not jump to the opportunity too quickly.
“I definitely want to wait a little bit because I don’t want to deal with any backlash,” Brewer said. “I’m just weary about joining because I’m just suspicious that they’re making it a lot harder than it sounds.”
Brewer remembers when the transgender ban had much tighter reins. He was a junior in high school.
About a year ago, Brewer took his usual morning commute from Ovid, New York to Charles O’ Dickerson High School. To his surprise, U.S. military recruiters showed up during his lunchtime period to give out information about joining the service. Brewer was ecstatic. With a ray of confidence, Brewer approached the recruitment table. The recruiter saw Brewer and matched his energy: the recruiter himself was thrilled to see Brewer passionate about wanting to be a marine.
As Brewer became comfortable with the officer, Brewer shared that he was transgender. Then the mood of the officer completely changed.
He told Brewer that the military currently does not accept transgender people, and that Brewer would not be allowed to serve. Brewer was furious: he thought he had been rejected by personal prejudice. But as soon as he got home from school, he looked up the latest version of the U.S. Army’s medicalization standards. And Brewer found the recruitment officer was right.
According to the U.S. Army’s Standards of Medical Fitness, a history of, or current manifestation of, a gender disorder render an individual administratively unfit. Brewer was shocked. But only months later, there was hope for potential openly trans soldiers.
The U.S. Air Force became the first military branch to openly combat the other military branches on the trans ban issue. On June 4, a statement issued by the U.S. Air Force said that among enlisted airmen, there was no outright grounds for discharge for anyone with gender dysphoria or self-identifying as transgender. An individual would only be subject eviction from the air force if his or her condition interfered with their potential deployment or performance on active duty.
Well, at least one of the five military branches jumped on the trans advocacy board. But where were the other voices of the military? According to multiple past interviews, many high-ranking military officers advocated trans expression and recruitment. This includes the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, and the President of the United States, Barack Obama.
In May of 2014, former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in an interview that the military should continually review its prohibition on transgender people in the armed forces, calling into question whether the Pentagon’s ban may eventually be lifted. And in Feb. 2015 when current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stated he did not hold anything against trans men and women defending the country, only one day later did U.S. Secretary John Earnest state President Obama endorsed Carter’s comments.
Recent media have cited the trans military ban issue as the new “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), a reference to the 18-year ban of gay, lesbian and bisexual military personnel. Morale to quicken the repeal of the trans military ban continues to thrive due to public figures like Kristin Beck, Landon Wilson, and Sean Sala.
Kristin Beck served two decades in the U.S. Navy Seals. In 2013, Beck began her transition into womanhood. Beck said just as women should soon serve the U.S. Navy SEALS by their qualifications and not their gender, the same should apply for any individual to fill any military position.
“It’s a team and just because you “open the doors” doesn’t mean it will be less or open to immorality, weakness or other issues,” Beck said. “. . . opening doors just means that quantified or quality people who are capable of joining and enhancing the team will be able to apply.”
Landon Wilson believes in a similar philosophy. In 2012 Wilson was handed his DD 214 discharge papers when a head officer found out about his original sexual identity. As an advocate of SPART*A, a LGBT military support group, Landon said he does not want other trans soldiers to have his experience.
“I want [military branches] to see the 15,500 [trans] members who want to serve,” Wilson said. “It’s time they receive the same treatment as everyone else does. Your unit can be stronger if you bring your full self.”
Sean Sala is the founder of the Military Freedom Coalition (MFC), which attempts to unite many supporters of the transgender community. Sala was one of the main advocates in causing the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in 2011. Sala said transgender inequality is not what reflects in the U.S. Constitution. He said its up to the people to fight for their rights.
“This is not American core values,” Sala said. “These soldiers have sworn to defend the United States. Much like Martin Luther King, Harvey Milk, Elizabeth Stannon, they need to take a stand.”
Nathan Brewer is the founder of the Facebook group “Allow Transgender People To Serve In The United States Military,” which has over 1,300 likes. When asked what he thinks should happen next, he gave a similar response to Sala: he said it was up to people’s actions to make a change.
“We have to show people that trans individuals are not going anywhere,” Brewer said. ”I think if more trans people show up at recruiting stations, that will make a difference because there are many people who want to fight for their country. “
Brewer said he looks forward for the future. He said he is ready to see what will happen.
“I’m waiting for actual change,” Brewer said. “Not just talk.”
Latest posts by Katie Glover (see all)
- Woooh!New issue of Frock Magazine for January & February now published! - 27 January 2017
- Julia Panther’s Santa Dress Photo Shoot - 18 December 2016
- Frock Magazine Issue #39 – Published in September 2016 - 30 September 2016