Local Veteran Reacts To Pentagon Transgender Military Announcement

Posted at 10:21 PM, Dec 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-11 23:21:39-05

When President Trump announced his plans to reinstate a ban on transgender men and women serving in the military through his Twitter account in July, like thousands of others, veteran Carla Lewis was mad. 

"Well I was very angry, and I've got a lot of friends who are serving in active duty right now," she said. 

Currently, there's an estimated 5,000 transgender service members on active military duty. Lewis knows what many of them are going through. In 1990 she joined the Air Force, her name was Justin then. However, a year later she was discharged after a background check revealed she had sought counseling for gender issues. In recent years, she's dedicated herself to fighting for trans rights. 

"If there's no transgender people in the service, we don't have a seat at the table, we can't be a part of policy change, somebody else is speaking for us," said Lewis. "We can serve our country like anyone else."  

While transgender soldiers have been able to openly serve since 2016, the president's tweets threatened that policy, and a number of lawsuits have since followed. However, on Monday a federal judge declined the administration's request to put the deadline to accept transgender members on hold.

"It is a compromise, but that's how we move forward," Lewis said. 

While trans service members may be backed by a federal judge, Lewis knows there are other walls they can hit. "The executive branch, the Department of Defense can make implementations so difficult that it would be hard for a transgender person to enlist or become an officer candidate," Lewis explained. 

Currently, a transitioning military applicant must be stable in gender as affirmed by a physician for 18 months before enlisting. A service member who comes out after enlisting must wait and serve 18 months before publicly announcing it.