WASHINGTON — Today, over 200 leaders from the LGBTQ civil rights movement are gathered in Alexandria just across the river from Washington, D.C. for the annual Equality Federation Leadership Conference as President Trump announced his intention, in a series of tweets, to ban transgender people from serving in the military. Standing united against the shameful attack on transgender Americans, Equality Federation and its members released the following joint statement:
“Today’s reprehensible attack on transgender military personnel by President Trump is unconscionable. The more than 15,000 transgender Americans who serve our country today deserve nothing but respect from their commander-in-chief. Transgender service members are brave patriots, not burdens or disruptions. The Defense Department has already extensively studied readiness issues concerning transgender people serving openly, so there is no reason to believe that this policy is anything other than blatant discrimination. To every transgender person in the United States: We see you, we love you, and we will never stop fighting for you.”
At the Equality Federation’s Leadership conference, members were quick to express outrage and disappointment in the President’s announcement. “The President’s statements harm brave service members and their families and damage our military,” said Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director of Equality Federation. ”As infuriating as President Trump’s statement is, I am inspired by the transgender veterans speaking out today against this injustice.”
Joanne Carroll is the President of Equality Pennsylvania’s Education Fund. She is transgender and a retired Master Sergeant of the Air Force where she served for 20 years, including time in Vietnam. “The President said he would be a best friend to our community, but day in and day out he has systematically done everything he can to disprove that. Just when transgender people were starting to feel recognized and safe enough to serve openly, he deflated that hope,” she said.
Jennifer Long, a member and longtime volunteer of Garden State Equality, is a transgender veteran who served 30 years in the Army as an infantry soldier. She was awarded a Bronze Star for her service in Afghanistan. “It’s shocking and disappointing. Essentially the President is trying to fire 15,000 service members who serve in all kinds of capacities. Job security is one of the things many service members count on to provide for themselves and their families, so these statements will cause a lot of stress,” she said.
Sheri Swokowski is a transgender retired Army Infantry Colonel and Vice Chair of Fair Wisconsin Education Fund. “I’m extremely disappointed and surprised that the leader of our military would think that transgender service members are not capable or worthy of serving this nation, especially since we’ve been doing so since the beginning. We’ve always been in the ranks. Every step of the way, as we’ve opened the military up, it’s exemplified how diversity adds the value of every organization. The largest employer in the nation, our military, should be an equal opportunity employer. There should be no place for discrimination in the military,” she said.
Giovanni Santiago, a transgender man who volunteered with Equality Ohio in Akron to pass local nondiscrimination protections inclusive of transgender people and who served in the Air Force for three and a half years, said, “I feel like that it is a travesty that transgender individuals can no longer serve in the military. It is in no way a reflection of their ability to serve but a blatant attack on their want for authenticity. So as not only a trans veteran myself––but as someone who has worked hard for the trans veteran community––I feel it is my duty to speak out and stand up for those who are not able.”
Steph White, Executive Director of Equality Michigan was a commander in the 2nd Infantry Division. “As a former military Commander in infantry divisions I learned, as all military leaders know, that soldiers come from all walks of life. But what we all have in common is the bravery to face challenges and the knowledge that we are all in the fight together. The only quality that really matters to a strong military is the tenacity and reliability of your teammates,” she said.
For more information or interview requests contact Mark Snyder, Equality Federation, email@example.com / 617.416.0552.
Equality Federation is the movement builder and strategic partner to state-based organizations advocating for LGBTQ people. From Equality Florida to Freedom Oklahoma to Basic Rights Oregon, we amplify the power of the state-based LGBTQ movement.
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