Trans­gen­der sol­dier fears life set­back af­ter Trump’s tweet

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The US Army sol­dier took a deep breath be­fore hit­ting the but­ton that sent the email to more than 200 fel­low troops. “All con­sid­ered, I am, and have been, travers­ing what is es­sen­tially a per­sonal mat­ter, but is some­thing I must ad­dress pub­licly,” the email stated. “I am trans­gen­der.”

The April 13 email of­fi­cially ended the se­cret that burned inside Capt. Jen­nifer Sims, who was known as Jonathan Sims. But the feel­ing of re­lief swiftly turned to un­ease last week af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted that trans­gen­der peo­ple were no longer wel­come in the US mil­i­tary. “I read the tweets while I was at work and you know it was dev­as­tat­ing be­cause I still have work to do and here I am read­ing ba­si­cally what sounds like the pres­i­dent of the United States - who is the com­man­der in chief, he is the ul­ti­mate boss of the mil­i­tary - telling me and any­body else that is trans­gen­der that we are fired,” Sims said.

Pen­tagon of­fi­cials say the pol­icy will re­main un­changed with­out of­fi­cial White House guid­ance. But for Sims, the un­cer­tainty has been up­set­ting. “So in the ini­tial mo­ments af­ter the tweet, I saw my­self forced into the state that I was in be­fore I started tran­si­tion­ing - a state of de­pres­sion, ex­haus­tion and in­abil­ity to en­joy things,” said Sims, 28, who spoke to The Associated Press on her own be­half and not on that of the Army.

The re­ver­sal of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pol­icy that al­lows trans­gen­der peo­ple to serve openly and re­ceive mil­i­tary med­i­cal cov­er­age for tran­si­tion­ing from one gen­der to another also could af­fect her phys­i­cally. Sims has been on hor­mone ther­apy by her mil­i­tary doc­tor since Novem­ber. If she in­ter­rupts the treat­ment, her body will re­vert to be­ing male.

“It would be very dif­fi­cult to have to go through that,” said Sims, who is based at Ho­hen­fels, a USArmy garrison in the Ger­man state of Bavaria. Grow­ing up in Min­nesota and Florida, Sims, a high school foot­ball player, never felt com­fort­able be­ing male. The son and grand­son of mil­i­tary vet­er­ans qui­etly came to terms with iden­ti­fy­ing as a woman a year af­ter join­ing the Army R.O.T.C., but out­wardly kept it a se­cret “be­cause I wanted to con­tinue serv­ing,” Sims said. Sims stopped so­cial­iz­ing, feel­ing drained over wor­ries about be­ing mas­cu­line enough, and in­stead fo­cused on work, serv­ing in Afghanistan, In­done­sia and Ger­many. Her sis­ter, Natasha Sims, 24, said she saw “empti­ness” in her eyes.

Af­ter the De­fense De­part­ment an­nounced in 2015 that it was con­sid­er­ing al­low­ing trans­gen­der troops to serve openly, Sims told Natasha and their par­ents. When the pol­icy be­came of­fi­cial in June 2016, Sims said she felt the mean­ing of the word free­dom per­son­ally af­ter spend­ing years fight­ing for it for her coun­try. “It was the best day of my life re­ally,” Sims said.

Sims made an ap­point­ment with the be­hav­ioral health of­fice, was given a di­ag­no­sis of gen­der dys­pho­ria and started hor­mone ther­apy in Novem­ber. Five months later, she de­cided to tell fel­low troops. She first told her two clos­est col­leagues, Capt. Bran­don Shorter and another in­fantry of­fi­cer. They were at a loss for words. Af­ter Shorter got home, al­low­ing it to sink in, he texted Sims about how that was brave.

“In­fantry of­fi­cers are best de­scribed as brutish. So Capt. Sims pulled me and another brute aside face to face. That took a lot of courage and that’s the first thing that went through my mind, mixed in with sur­prise,” Shorter said. Sims then an­nounced the “per­sonal change” to more than 200 other troops. It was not an emo­tional email. The sea­soned mil­i­tary of­fi­cer wrote how a life­time of dis­com­fort had peaked three years ago. Sims metic­u­lously ex­plained gen­der dys­pho­ria, an­nounced she was Capt Jen­nifer Sims, not Jonathan, and out­lined the steps she would take to fully tran­si­tion to a woman.

“Of­fi­cially in DEERS, my gen­der will re­main male un­til my med­i­cal tran­si­tion is com­plete, which means I will still com­port to male stan­dards and use male fa­cil­i­ties,” she wrote, re­fer­ring to the acro­nym for the De­fense En­roll­ment El­i­gi­bil­ity Re­port­ing Sys­tem, a kind of HR data­base for US mil­i­tary per­son­nel. “While it is my pref­er­ence for peo­ple to re­fer to me with fe­male pro­nouns, if you are un­com­fort­able with this, there is no re­quire­ment to do so, I only re­spect­fully re­quest you re­fer to me by my proper name, Cap­tain Sims,” the email stated. Sims as­sured her unit the change “if any­thing, will only make me more pro­duc­tive and ca­pa­ble, as I no longer have to live two per­sonas.” Five sol­diers sent emails back with words of en­cour­age­ment. Most didn’t re­spond. For a few days, there were mur­murs of “hey did you see the email?” The force had just un­der­gone train­ing ex­plain­ing what was ex­pected in re­gards to trans­gen­der sol­diers.

Sims is the first trans­gen­der per­son Shorter has known. The unit is ba­si­cally full of “young men want­ing to chew on nails and prove how tough they are and rightly so since they are in­fantry men,” Shorter said. There are only about eight women among the 500 sol­diers in the bat­tal­ion. He had a lot of ques­tions “be­ing nat­u­rally cu­ri­ous and want­ing to be a good friend be­cause we didn’t re­ally have a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship. He’s, ex­cuse me, she’s - see I still slip up some­times - a sin­gle cap­tain, I’m mar­ried with two daugh­ters.

— AP

BERATZHAUSEN: In this July 29, 2017 photo trans­gen­der US army cap­tain Jen­nifer Sims poses prior to an in­ter­view with The Associated Press.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.