A Trans Army Captain In Washington State Grapples With Trump Administration Ban

Aug 28, 2017

The Trump administration's ban on transgender troops is a blow to trans service members who were just getting used to greater official acceptance in the military, according to a soldier in Washington state.

The policy, outlined in a White House memo Friday, bans new transgender troops from joining the armed forces. It also directs the defense secretary to evaluate whether already-enlisted transgender troops can continue serving.

U.S. Army Capt. Jennifer Peace, who is transgender, said the ban creates uncertainty for trans service members around the world.

"We have people trying to make decisions about their lives," she said in an interview Friday.

"We have people currently deployed to a combat zone saying, 'What does this mean for me?'" she added. "'Do I have to sort of abandon my fellow service members, my battle buddies, here?'"

Human rights groups filed a pair of federal lawsuits Monday arguing the ban is unconstitutional. One of the lawsuits was filed in Seattle. 

Peace, 32, is an intelligence officer stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She began medically transitioning to female in 2014. Her military career spans nearly 13 years, including combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. 

She said she's aware of about 15 other transgender troops at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, located south of Tacoma. The RAND Corporation estimated last year that the total number of active-duty transgender troops is between 1,320 and 6,630, out of a total of 1.3 million.

The Trump administration's ban reverses a decision by the Obama administration to allow transgender troops to serve openly. That policy was just over a year old.

"At that point, I felt secure in my career," Peace said. 

"The only thing that trans people in the military are asking for is to be treated like every other service member and to be discriminated against based solely on their performance," she added. "And we should all want that for our military and we should all want the best and brightest to be allowed to serve." 

Peace said she never heard a disparaging remark from her superiors or peers in the military.

"Every step of the way, the people I've worked with have always been supportive," she said. "The only negative comments that I've got are from people who have not served in the military" or ex-service members who have said, "'Oh, I'm glad I got out of the military before all this.'"

She also pushed back against claims that transgender troops are less ready to deploy for medical reasons.

"I could fit a year's worth of my medication in a pill bottle," she said. "All of the arguments are [from] people that have a misunderstanding of what it means to be trans, what ongoing healthcare is." 

Peace isn't planning for a life outside the military. She said thinking about that feels like "defeat." In fact, she hopes to retire from Joint Base Lewis-McChord and settle with her wife and children in Washington.

In the meantime, she's not sure whether she'll be part of the Trump administration's planned troop surge in Afghanistan. But she said she's ready to go, if called upon.