Trans Soldier Shane Ortega on Trump's Military Ban, How to Save America

"This is about who is considered a valid human being," says first openly trans person to serve in U.S. Army

First openly trans Army soldier Shane Orgega. "These people still chose to take bullets for you." Credit: Greg Doherty/Getty Images

On Wednesday, Donald Trump announced via Twitter that the government will no longer accept nor allow transgender individuals to serve in the military. In any capacity. Effectively reversing U.S. policy in just 340 characters, this statement appears to reestablish the ban on transgender military service that was formally reversed under the Obama Administration by then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2016.

For insight on the Trump Administration's new shift in military policy, Rolling Stone reached out to retired Staff Sergeant Shane Ortega, the first openly transgender soldier to serve in the United States Army. Ortega discussed the controversy surrounding the ban, what this policy reversal means for thousands of transgender active-duty service members and how to fight back.

I'm going to be frank and tell the truth: I'm very fucking worried.

It's not just about the military service members. It's about what this precedent sets for the American public. If you can enforce a discriminatory ban against what America likes to idealize as the pinnacle of being an American, what does that mean for the regular Joe?

This is one of Donald Trump's further attempts to deflect away from his incompetence as a president. The American public has been involuntarily subjugated to the backdrop that is "The Donald Trump Reality Show," and it's becoming very apparent and very scary. Donald Trump's level of cognitive dissonance is so great, that we as the people have to take some sort of formidable action at this point.

[The military] was supposed to receive new transgender recruits [this summer.] Name changes and gender markers should already have been changed. They needed to have a letter from their doctors stating that their hormone levels and transition had been stable for 18 months. Those are higher standards than for regular service members, but it had already been written into policy. Officials had already agreed to that. Donald Trump and [Defense Secretary James] Mattis said, "No. We need to hold off for another six months."

"I have never been concerned with if you like me or dislike me. All that I care about is that you respect me as a human being" -Jackie Robinson . I don't care if you like me personally. Or if you like my gender, my race or even my face. But there is no excuse to attack the fidelity of the American Soldier. Who's only crime (sometimes misguided) is to honor the people of this country. To serve them and embody something bigger than themselves. That love and sacrifice is not ordinary. It is rare. It will not stand to be questioned by someone who is egotistical and unwilling to have any sense of empathy. Let alone a 5x draft-dodger. . I am coming for you Donald. For you and your archaic ideology that threatens the freedoms of our constitution. The American people deserve to thrive in happiness. This fight is not over til the fat man sings. . . . #tbt #bts #gay

A post shared by Shane Alejandro Ortega (@onlyshaneortega) on

This is so much more than people needing jobs, or serving, or war. This is about who is considered a valid human being, and who is not a valid human being. And who gets to decide. Right now, we're seeing that Donald Trump gets to decide.

I knew what gender I was before I joined. These new recruits will know what gender they are before they join. But you know what? It doesn't matter. These people still chose to take bullets for you.

Up until this very minute, the climate [in the military] had improved. When you liberate constraints on gender or archaic society viewpoints, you liberate society. When we stop policing gender, then it's possible for a military man with PTSD to cry. Because we're not holding people to these mystical, unattainable ideas of masculinity or military performance. They're allowed to be human beings with weaknesses and conflict.

While our government is trying to figure out who is a human being and who is not a human being, it's not the time to enlist. The best way to serve your country is to fight for your country, to stand up for your country and to speak out for its citizens. Not by putting on a uniform, but by getting out there with a megaphone and some freaking pamphlets. Whatever you need to fight discrimination, whether it be for people of color, or women's rights, or accessibility to fertility medications. That is what America needs. That is what will save America.