Transgender Americans are two times as likely to serve in the military as the general population. San Diego has the highest concentration of LGBTQ military personnel in the world, making Monday’s historic executive order by President Biden ending the ban on transgender servicemembers that much more meaningful and impactful to the daily lives of our local community. Transgender servicemembers and veterans such as Christine Jorgensen, Albert Cashier, Autumn Sandeen, Kristin Beck, Evander Deocariza, and Ronnie Zerrer have been a part of the fabric of our country since our nation’s founding and important drivers of our movement for LGBTQ equality throughout our history. However, systemic and target discrimination, even from within our own community, has left steeper roads to equity and justice for our trans siblings.
Monday, our country took an important humanizing step for our trans siblings in showing people across the U.S. and the world that all those who are willing and able to defend the Constitution and Country should be afforded dignity and respect. Our collective hope is that these changes allow our transgender community members serving in the armed forces to no longer serve in silence. Their vocal and visible presence may very well chart a new course not only for transgender Americans but could help pave the way for the passage of a boldly comprehensive version of the Equality Act.
Since the early 1900s, steps towards inclusion and integration of our military have been noted to support solidarity within diverse communities. As the armed forces allowed people from different white ethnic groups, religions, racial and ethnic minorities, women, and LGB people to serve alongside one another, those bonds built-in boot camp and battlefields translated into greater appreciation and understanding back in civilian life. Public sentiment and in turn public policy are so moved.
The swift and decisive actions by our new administration demonstrate how our nation is attempting to course-correct after the last four years that witnessed rising hate crimes against our community and transgender people being murdered at epidemic levels. Today our country’s approximately 15,500 transgender servicemembers, 163,000 veterans, and their families can rest easier knowing that their Commander in Chief, President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, and the country stand in their support. We are grateful for their service to our country and movement, as they embody how our community is Resilient.
Fernando Zweifach López
San Diego Pride
P.S. You can learn more about our work with LGBTQ servicemembers and veterans by signing up for our Military Department’s newsletter or joining their Facebook group.