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I am a military veteran and transgender — and nobody cares in the trenches of war

In this Jan. 7, 2019 photo, The Supreme Court is seen in Washington,. The Supreme Court is allowing the Trump administration to go ahead with its plan to restrict military service by transgender men and women while court challenges continue. The high court on Tuesday reversed lower-court orders preventing the Pentagon from implementing its plans. The high court for now declined to take up cases about the plan. The cases will continue to move through lower courts. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I know firsthand what it means to serve my country.

In basic training, you are taught that you are a soldier first, your trade second. In combat, titles don’t matter. Whether you are a cook, receptionist or on the front lines, you are trained to defend this country. You are taught the same basic principles and skills, including treating yourself and others with respect and dignity.

I still believe in those principles, but the Trump Administration has not demonstrated the same.

OPINION

It is foolish and irresponsible to claim that the service of transgender soldiers is disruptive and burdensome. Trans people have always served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and the cost has never been any greater than that of our cisgender counterparts. In fact, some of us face the highest cost — suppressing who we are, denying ourselves the ability to live authentically, while risking our lives for the country and principles we hold dear.

This cost went up. The Supreme Court this month permitted the Trump Administration’s ban on trans people serving in the military, effectively revoking our ability to serve our country in this way and codifies discrimination against transgender individuals based partly — and incorrectly — on the alleged increase in medical costs. Furthermore, trans people have been proudly serving both openly and closeted for years, with no proof that any disruptions have resulted.

This decision is particularly striking considering who is targeted, and who is actually harmed as a result.

Our community is among the most vulnerable to discrimination and are disproportionately the victims of violence. As a community, we are no stranger to inequality; but to have our president, the Supreme Court and Congress actively work to strip away our safety nets is an overt act of institutionalized discrimination by the very country we risk our lives to protect. When our elected officials encourage discrimination against my community, we are even more vulnerable to injustice and violence.

When policy strips away our humanity, it further enables and emboldens those who wish us harm, and makes trans people even more unsafe.

We are living during a time where violence against the transgender community is staggering. Every day, we are forced to ask ourselves if we will be the next name on the long list of trans people murdered simply for living our truth — for existing. With this ban, we now must consider whether the country many of us are willing to die for even values our lives.

As a progressive society, we should all be shocked, alarmed and dismayed by a government that blatantly condones discrimination upon its own citizens.

I enlisted in the military not because I was forced to by a draft, but because I felt a duty to fight for the rights and liberties that we enjoy each and every day. I stood in the Military Entrance Processing Station in Indianapolis and took an oath swearing “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” My trans siblings have fought and died for this country right alongside our cisgender brothers and sisters.

When you are in the trenches of war and on the battlefield, you don’t have time to care about a person’s skin color, gender identity or sexual orientation — what matters is that the people standing beside you will have your back.

Being able to serve freely and openly is a basic human right that we all should be afforded, no matter our gender identity or expression. President Trump’s actions have told people like me “You are fit to pay taxes, but not fit to serve.”

Trans individuals are productive tax-paying citizens who give to this country as much as any other American or group of people. We are not demanding special consideration, only just treatment — because separate is certainly not equal.

Tatyana Moaton was born and raised in Chicago and served in the U.S. Army from 1995-2003 as a 35F Military Intelligence Analyst with the 332nd CSB in Danville, Ill. Moaton currently is a Human Resources Manager for Howard Brown Health, the Midwest’s largest LGBTQ nonprofit healthcare organization.

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