On April 12th, I Can Tell Myself that I Gave it my All.
I lost a client today.
Let me explain. Since March 12th, when the Department of Defense issued the transgender ban, I’ve been helping service members get their diagnoses of gender dysphoria—the medical diagnosis required by the military for transgender service members to transition to their preferred gender before the April 12th deadline after which transition will no longer be allowed. Despite reports that another “injunction” remains, this is just one more procedural hiccup and doesn't guarantee more time for a diagnosis. For the past three weeks, I’ve teamed up with an Army Reserve JAG Officer to help with her overload of clients. As of today, we have tried to help 18 people, either individually or as a team. Today, the first one told us that it wasn’t worth the risk.
I won’t go into details for obvious reasons, but someone decided that coming out to get the diagnosis wasn’t worth the risk of being outed and kicked out if their paperwork wasn’t completed in time. It broke my heart.
This policy makes people choose, in less than a month’s time, whether they want to be themselves and out or to serve in silence and not move forward with their transition. They must choose - facing a difficult road ahead full of uncertainty and possible discrimination that comes with serving openly today and the chance of being discharged if their paperwork isn’t in before April 12th. As of today, they cannot change their minds later if they feel they made the wrong choice. It makes those of us who are waived from the policy or “grandfathered in” watch helplessly as our trans-siblings are not able to move forward and feel survivor’s guilt.
I can’t say I blame this person for their decision. It is a hard choice and one that only the individual at risk can make. They made the right one for them. But in the coming days and beyond, I worry that I will hear of more people that did not make it in time: either because they were not ready to make their choice or because logistical issues stood in their way. I will have to watch others not be able to serve openly, as I have been allowed.
What can I do? Fight, right now. Fight with everything I can to get people under the wire. Fight to ensure that no service member is left behind—a motto those of us who serve are all too familiar with. On April 12, as I cry for those who did not make it, I can tell myself that I gave it my all.
Petty Officer First Class, Alice Ashton
Alice Ashton’s writings are expressly her own opinions and not those of the military, the U.S. Navy, or any of its components.