By Gabriel Owens, contributor
There’s nothing like waking up to the news your good friend of the last half-decade might be losing their job just for being who they are.
A friend who holds an above-Top Secret level security clearance, and has served honorably for over a decade in the United States Navy.
Someone that didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, it was for something that was once encouraged and applauded.
My friend, we’ll call her “Ketchum,” has a wife and kids. She takes her job seriously. She’s a high-security “spook” job spying on our nation’s enemies aboard Naval vessels. She’s been around the world in the Navy and as the child of world travelers before that. She enjoys fashion and all things geek, always ready to talk about new dresses and shoes, as well as the latest Marvel cinematic blockbuster.
She’s also transgendered, something I didn’t know when we served together years ago. When the military adopted a policy of allowing trans service members to join and serve openly, and supported it with surgery, medical therapy, treatment, and a transition plan how all of that will work, she decided to come out to the Navy and her close friends.
I’ve read her posts on social media talking about the struggles of medication and growing breasts while still a “man” during the work day. Being looked at side-eyed in the deep South near her current base. But still, she persisted to become the real her. The excitement she has discovering new dresses to wear and different make up styles to use is adorable as she squees with each new discovery of herself.
And today, we wake up to this:
So…does that mean she’s effectively fired? This isn’t speculation from a pundit; this came right from the Commander-In-Chief’s mouth, the same man who promised during the campaign to fight for the LGBT community. The language he used today doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room.
My friend has no idea what her future is. Many are hemming and hawing about how that’s no guarantee those already in the military will be treated going forward. Maybe it’s just blocking future transgender troops for the time being.
And others say well, anyway, the military shouldn’t be paying for transgender medical issues. Or they say they’re “mentally unstable! How are they even battle-ready if they can’t figure out their genitalia? Those in transition aren’t deployable to ships or combat zones because of their issues!”
I did 20 years in the Navy. I’ve seen a lot. I’ve seen people get elective breast augmentation and “nose jobs” on the taxpayer’s dime to keep reserve Navy plastic surgeons “in practice” when there wasn’t a war going on (they’re ostensibly there to provide cosmetic and similar surgeries for the war wounded). I’ve seen every prescription known to man prescribed to service members for their various ailments, including Viagra. Last time I checked, boners and big boobs weren’t mission essential. It was all on the taxpayer’s dime.
I’ve also watched the broken, beaten and abused with no place to go come in and find a home. I watched them be shaped into war fighters and be given mental health treatment for their psychological issues and find a place where they belong.
Oh, and my friend? She just got approved for future sea duty today. For US Naval warships. There goes “non deployable.”
I’ve seen flag wavers rah-rahing that we need to give every veteran the help they needed, whatever it is. Whether you did four years, 20, or are still on active duty. The battle cry is they deserve it for their service and sacrifice. It’s a perk of serving.
Yet, they don’t come out in droves for these service members. Ones that were told by powers that be that, “It’s OK. We’ll figure it out. You be you. We have your back.”
That promise feels broken.
Maybe the plan in place was flawed. It needs to be worked on. But that’s the military way, implement a plan then fake it till you make it. Why is this different?
Maybe Trump made a rash statement to satisfy those in Congress who wanted transgender members of the military gone, or Mr. Trump doesn’t get his wall. Maybe it was because Secretary of Defense Mattis was on vacation. Maybe it was a distraction from the latest healthcare bill drama on the Hill.
It doesn’t matter. It was a slap in the face to those serving who are going through transition. It says “we lied.” It doesn’t matter which administration started it, it matters how you treat your service members willing to die for their country now. And they are being treated like garbage by their boss.
And in my mind, that’s f@$!ed.
And it’s not OK.
Gabriel Owens is a Decatur resident and a 20-year Navy veteran who left the service as a E6/Petty Officer First Class. He is a regular contributor to Atlanta Loop and Decaturish. He also runs a YouTube channel called “The Salty Seaman.”