On Thursday, Nov. 8, Carson Graham of TransInclusive moderated a panel discussion for four transgender veterans about their experience in the military at the Stonewall Museum in Wilton Manors, Florida.
Transgender individuals have been allowed to serve openly in the United States since 2011. According to the U.S. government, there are approximately 15,000 transgender service members currently on active duty or in the reserves and over 150,000 transgender veterans.
Kristy Golba had served 31 years in the Marines with multiple deployments all around the world, including, Bahrain, Suriname, Iraq, Norway, Japan. “I joined when I was 18,” Golba said. “My family life was a bit distorted. My dad was a drunk, former marine – it was a combination of things, getting away and changing my environment. Now, but now I want to focus on myself.”
After all the panelists introduce themselves, Graham asked, “What advice do you have for future transmen or transwomen that would want to enlist?”
“If they are already transitioning, then they can’t,” was Nicki Ruiz’s quick reply.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis released a 44-page memorandum earlier this year which proposed a policy that was deemed as extremely discriminatory by The American Psychological Association. Mattis’ expert panel from the Pentagon has been heavily criticized for skewing data from various research studies.
There are three keys points that the Pentagon’s panel claims – there is minimal success with mental health and when hormone therapy was introduced to transgender servicemen and women, they were more prone to depression and suicide.
Secondly, the policy states, “Transgender persons who require or have undergone gender transition are disqualified from military service.” However, there is a bit of legal jargon following the statement, which allows the Pentagon the ability to make exceptions.
Third, the policy also states that transgender persons should serve as their biological sex.
“I don’t care if you are transgender, homosexual, heterosexual or what have you identify as, I would say no,” said Champagne Boudreaux. “I cannot recommend people to enlist. It’s a lot of mental work. You see how we are all up here, speaking monotone? We were trained that way, they put us in this kind of environment. Our experiences, we relive it, we go there. It is a tough road to live, [you have to] think of every aspect of your private life.”
“I did five years, I went to Kuwait for 6 months, and in 2016 I went to the countries surrounding Russia,” said Nicki Ruiz. “Bulgaria, Latvia, Jordan and Kuwait, it was hot, it was so fricken hot. If you can imagine standing outside, it was about 130 degrees, and [you have] about 60 pounds of [gear] on you and you’re just raining [sweat] inside of your cap.”
“I would say if you’re transitioning, I would say wait,” added Nicki Ruiz. “Unless you have already had bottom surgery, the military won’t give just one person any special treatment so you will end up sharing 5 showerheads with 30 people that were born your biological gender.” Ruiz then reiterated, “We are all one solider, we are all one sailor. There’s no room for special treatment.”