This morning my newsfeed flooded with reactions and responses to a series of tweets...
Plenty of articles have been written today explaining everything that is wrong with the diarrhea of the
thumbs mouth that came from our Commander in Tweet Chief this morning. I could easily write pages about all the reasons why what he said is inaccurate or inane, but why do that when you can just google “transgender trump viagra”?
No, instead as a transgender veteran of the United States Armed Forces, I want to tell you why his words were incendiary.
Honestly, at this point, there is nothing that could come from the
thumbs mouth of Donald Trump that would offend me. I find his every word to be so ludicrous - none of them carry any weight. But the problem isn’t actually with his words. The problem is with the office and influence associated with his words, that are now emboldening others to perpetuate hate and discrimination. The names I have been called in the last 12 hours are overwhelming... it is difficult for me to imagine how it would have felt earlier in my journey to have heard the leader of the free world condemn me as a disruption and a burden. But this has been his modus operandi for a long time, to open the door for others to be able to justify their inexcusable words and behavior. He has no regard for telling the truth or being consistent in his promises and will say whatever serves the moment to get what he wants.
On April 12, 2016, I had the opportunity to share my story with the world and it was indeed the story I never thought I would live to tell. In the year since, my life has been beyond beautiful. I have never felt more full or more whole than I do today. I don’t hide who I am or what my story is, but I also don’t wear it on my name tag. While I see my journey as an opportunity to open the minds of others, not every moment of my life needs to be centered around the narrative of my experience as a transgender person.
One part of my story that didn’t make it into that article, is that I spent 8 years as a member of the United States Air Force Reserve. I served as a 2E2X1 Electronic Computer and Cryptographic Switching Systems Technician and served with the 920th Rescue Wing out of Patrick Air Force Base. Completing Basic Military Training was one of the first things in my life that I started and actually finished. The values and principles that I learned during my time as a service member have carried me to where I am today.
"Outstanding, motivated troop who, like everyone else placed the mission first. [Ben’s] work had nothing to do with gender identification; only dedication to the constitution and the principle that we are all free and all created equal." - Lt Col Jerome Cobb | US Air Force, Retired (Ben’s Commanding Officer)
The person that I was when I signed and said my oath, is the exact same person that I am today. I look a bit different than I did in 2003. So do you, I bet. I go by a different name than I did all those years ago and people use different pronouns for me, but I am the same Airman Weger. I have the same work ethic, the same intelligence, the same desire to put others before myself. To say that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the military, is ludicrous. And frankly, it’s too late. Myself and many who went before me and many who have followed are serving in the United States military in the various stages of what it is to be a transgender person. My service pales in comparison to that of Kristin Beck and many others.
As someone who lost the career I pursued after military service because I am a transgender man, I am broken for my fellow military siblings who try to sleep tonight, wondering what their future holds all because of a series of tweets. A conversation that directly impacts the livelihood of others should not be held with the carelessness displayed this morning on social media by Donald Trump. My trans siblings who have chosen to serve their country with deep courage deserve better than to be disrespected publicly by their employer’s highest ranking leader.
I am a veteran and not a current service member or a hopeful service member to be; this series of tweets really didn’t affect me in a firsthand way like it did many others. Sure, they might try to come for my DD214 or my ribbons and medals, but I get to write this piece from a place of privilege not worrying about how it my adversely influence my career or my dreams. However, as soon as I descended into the comment threads on various posts and coverage of these tweets, my heart began to break. To read the things that people who I have never met are willing to say about me, is devastating. I have pretty thick skin at this point, but it is difficult not to internalize these comments and even more difficult not to feel the weight and pain of young people who are reading these same words. And this, again, is the problem.
There is still a lot of dust to settle around the actual implications for current and incoming service members. Anyone who has done government work knows, it takes a lot more time, a lot more meetings, and a lot more briefings for change to occur. I haven’t (yet) seen policy change occur from a tweeted directive. So to my trans siblings who serve or hope to serve, keep breathing. Keep talking and keep asking questions. Continue to chase after your passion and dreams. You matter. You are important. The world needs your voice and your courage. It is through your honesty and your bravery that the world will continue to change. Allowing fear to hold us captive only promotes a system of oppression. When it is safe for you to do so - do not hide. It is simple to dismiss an idea or concept that you do not understand; it is difficult to dismiss a person that you care about. For those of us who are transgender and have the privilege of passing, may we use our voice and experience to continue paving a way for those who come behind us. When others attempt to reduce your existence to an “issue”, your voice and your life are a challenge and a testimony to the breadth of beauty among humankind.
I am so disappointed by how hateful people can be, and yet I served to defend their right to say hateful things about me. But this is freedom. And I would do it again.