In Transmilitary, first time feature documentary makers Gabe Silverman and Fiona Dawson’s excellent rational approach to the subject of transmen and women serving in US Armed Forces focuses on the one thing that transphobic politicians like to ignore i.e. facts.
They started filming Transmilitary back in November 2014 and chose to focus on four individual stories of serving transmen and women, all with exemplary records, who are nervously waiting to see if they will ever be officially recognised. The ban of them serving dates back to WW2 medical regulations, but despite this there are an estimated 15500 trans in the Forces actually making them the largest employer in the country.
Captain Jennifer Peace started transitioning just 6 months after she got married and a couple of years into her service. She has consistently been singled out for praise for her performance and promotion . Yet despite this on occasion has been outed by local commanders and suffered been discriminated against and been allocated mindless jobs beneath her rank.
Muscle-bound Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland was serving in Kandahar province facing dangerous missions daily. He revels in the fact that he is completely accepted in his Unit, so much so he confides to his fiance Laila in their weekly Skype video call, if it wasn’t for her, he’d much rather never come home. He knows that the moment he is redeployed back to the US, the local Commander there may insist he goes back to joining the female ranks again.
Laila understands this as she is a transwoman serving in the Army in Hawaii under Commanders who insists that she obey Army rules and present totally as a man. In the end it will be the reason she will accept an honourable discharge after 12 years of service.
The 4th subject is Captain El Cook, a black trans man from Houston who’s mother is a church pastor. She, and his clique of bros accept him fully, but he still wears a ponytail just in case he is ever told by superiors that he has to present himself as a woman again.
All of them are members of SPARTA an association of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who currently serve or have served in the U.S. armed forces . The documentary traces their involvement over the next few years, each of them knowing this was ‘outing’ themselves and could lead to them being dishonorably discharged.
The fear that they experience at times is very real, but nevertheless will not put any of them off helping to fight for their right to serve legally. They are aware with the countdown to the end of Obama’s presidency in sight, time may be running out for them. As one of their leaders comments no new President would want to make this issue a priority in their new term. That was of course before the unexpected Election result.
Their lobbying played off and on June 30th 2016 Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that as a result of the 6 month investigation he had decided that all qualified transgender men and women could serve in the Armed Forces with immediate effect. For once these men and women could relax secure in the knowledge that their commitments to serve and fight for their country was finally rightfully recognised.
That elation lasted for one year ……less 4 days……. when on June 26th 2017 Trump blasted out a tweet announcing the ban would be re-introduced with immediate effect. As is his normal practise he didn’t offer any facts at all to support his decision which was just playing to the prejudices of his alt-right supporters.
For once though the Heads of the Military stepped up to the plate and said that not only would the ban not be imposed immediately, but one by one, they all insisted that everyone serving regardless of orientation of gender would always be treated with the respect they deserve.
With such an unstable Commander In Chief now no rationale will be of any use and it looks like the Courts maybe the only way forward to get the Ban lifted once and for all.
What Transmilitary shows is that no matter how brave these men and women are by dealing with their gender dysphoria but also risking their lives by choosing to serve their country with such commitment and skills, their very future for themselves and their families can be toyed with by prejudiced politicians. Like the 5 time Draft Dodger currently in the White House.
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