My grandfather was a Marine in the Korean War, and survived a brutal march for nearly a hundred miles in the winter, with the enemy on one side of him and the ocean on the other. The only food he had was a can of bacon that he would heat up whenever he was lucky enough to find a campfire, peeling off a thawed strip or two from the inside of the frozen can, and staying just long enough to warm up his feet to prevent frostbite. Unlike so many of his fellow brave Marines, my Grampa Phil actually made it back home alive, where he married my gramma and raised seven kids as the loving, hardworking, Christian man that he was.
When my grandfather signed up for the military, he signed up to serve his country, and our ideals as a nation. The Constitution of the United States of America guarantees equal rights to every American, and though we have a complicated history when it comes to equality, we have throughout time tried to right our wrongs through things like the Emancipation Proclamation, the 19th Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, or granting same-sex couples the right to marry. These are the ideals that my Marine grandfather fought for, and these are the ideals that he instilled in me as his granddaughter.
I’ll be forever grateful to Grampa Phil for teaching me how to fight, because I’ve unfortunately had to do a lot of it lately: as the mother of a transgender child in Texas, I’m living in a state and indeed in a nation that seems hellbent on discriminating against my 9 year old son Max at every turn.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Looking at him, you’d never know he was trans. And why should that matter if he can “pass” or not anyway? Isn’t he just as much an American as you or I? Max likes all the same things that your 9 year old kids like: he’s obsessed with our cats, he builds elaborate Minecraft worlds, he struggles with his multiplications tables, and like his Great-Grampa Phil, his favorite food is bacon. What’s not to love about this kid? Why aren’t we doing more as a nation to protect him?
But rather than stand up for transgender Americans like my baby, the Department of Justice has instead rescinded any guidelines that were previously in place, meant to protect my child from discrimination. There are serious questions about how exactly the Department of Education will (or won’t) investigate complaints brought to them on behalf of LGBTQ students when these same students feel that they have been treated unfairly by their teachers or school boards. And now the Trump Administration has said that Americans like my son Max will be unable to serve this country in the military because they are transgender.
As parents and as Americans, we tell our children that when they grow up, they can be anything they want to be. If Max wants to be a Marine like his great-grandfather, who are we to stop him? Disappointingly, Trump wants to limit my American child’s potential. Nothing would make me prouder as Max’s mom to see him serve this country in the military, protecting our freedoms, serving as an unofficial ambassador in far off lands, and fighting for what he believes in. But after hearing this most recent news from the White House, I’m asking myself: if Max fought for our country, would our country fight for him?
There are 150,000 transgender service members who have served our military, or are on active duty, and an estimated 134,000 more when you count the Reserves. In fact, transgender Americans are more likely to serve in the military than their cisgender peers. Is it maybe because they’ve been fighters their whole lives? Think about it: transgender people had to fight to be who they are, and our brave service members continue to fight today for our country, including their right to exist in it. Their sacrifice and service is notable, appreciated, and selfless. The same cannot be said about their Commander in Chief.
This essay was originally published in the Huffington Post