Last week President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that he would ban transgender men and women from serving in the U.S. military.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts,” Trump wrote on social media, “please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
The tweet came as a surprise for a few reasons. First, because it appears it wasn’t a move the branches of military desired — in fact, the joint chiefs countered that they would not change their policy regarding transgender troops until they were told in an official directive to do so.
Second, it seems the ban was tied to a battle over the Defense budget. The U.S. House had been battling over a provision in the spending plan that would NOT ban transgender troops, but rather ban federal funding for gender-reassignment surgery for service members. That proposal ultimately failed after two dozen Republicans — including Michigan’s Justin Amash — teamed up with Democrats to scuttle the proposal.
What makes all of this more confusing is a lingering question over whether Trump was trying to move the hamstrung defense budget along faster because it includes funding for his Holy Grail — his White Whale — a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
It’s a twisting, winding story that still leaves several open questions that directly impact thousands of active-duty transgender men and women in the U.S. military.
State Senator David Knezek of Dearborn Heights served two tours of duty in Iraq as a scout sniper platoon member of the U.S. Marine Corps and rose to the level of Sergeant. When President Trump tweeted out that he was banning transgender troops, Knezek took to Facebook to decry the move, saying of transgender service members:
“I don’t have an eloquent response to President Trump’s decision regarding transgender service members. All I’ve got to say is:
When you’re in the s**t in a country 5,000 miles from home, I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, the color of your skin, who you kiss at night, or what you’ve got between your legs.
If you’re willing to lay down your life for me, I’m willing to lay down my life for you, and we’re both willing to lay down our lives for our country.
That’s all that should matter.”
Char Davinport is a transgender woman and a U.S. Navy veteran. She served in the Navy from 1974 to 1981 while still living as a young man. Davinport, now teaching writing and rhetoric at Oakland University, says says “transgender” wasn’t a word in her vocabulary when she graduated high school and went into the Navy. But she says she always knew she was a woman on the inside.
“I tried to talk to my parents about it when I was quite small, kindergarten actually,” Davinport tells Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson. “I don’t remember ever not knowing. What I do remember thinking ‘I need to push this way down.'”
She says trying to talk to people about her gender when she was young was only resulted in pain, so she suppressed those feelings as long as she could. She says she wanted to be invisible, and hoped the military would help her blend in with other young men. While in the military she met a few confidants who also lived a life of secrecy around their true identities, and found comfort in their shared experience.
To hear more from Davinport and Knezek on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.