I’m a trans­gen­der Repub­li­can, but my party is marginal­iz­ing me

Daily Southtown - - OPINION - By Jen­nifer N. Pritzker Jen­nifer N. Pritzker is a re­tired lieu­tenant colonel of the U.S. Army, and upon her re­tire­ment in March 2001, she was pro­moted to the rank of honorary colonel in the Illi­nois Na­tional Guard. She is pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of

To me, re­stric­tions on trans­gen­der mil­i­tary ser­vice are per­sonal. I am a trans­gen­der woman. Be­fore my tran­si­tion, I served as a lieu­tenant colonel in the U.S. Army. I am proud of the value I pro­vided the mil­i­tary dur­ing my 27-year ca­reer.

I am also a Repub­li­can who gen­er­ously sup­ports my party. While Democrats ac­cept the pro­noun I pre­fer, I firmly be­lieve the best gov­ern­ment is that which gov­erns least. It’s a mis­take for the Repub­li­can Party to ask me to choose be­tween my true iden­tity and my phi­los­o­phy of gov­ern­ment.

For much of my life, I couldn’t ex­plore my fem­i­nin­ity with­out sig­nif­i­cant risk. If the mil­i­tary dis­cov­ered I dressed as a woman, felt like a woman and iden­ti­fied as a woman, my ca­reer would have ended im­me­di­ately.

My wish is that more Amer­i­cans un­der­stood the ex­pres­sion of gen­der. The med­i­cal com­mu­nity has known for decades that sex and gen­der can­not be de­ter­mined solely by birth anatomy or chro­mo­somes. There are many phys­i­cal, social and psy­cho­log­i­cal el­e­ments that form a per­son’s gen­der iden­tity. Trans­gen­der peo­ple such as my­self need to ex­press our in­ter­nal iden­tity so that oth­ers can see us as we see our­selves. Think of this in­ter­nal pull like a north-seek­ing com­pass. When­ever it is used, the com­pass will point to true north. Fem­i­nin­ity is my true north.

I’ve grown frus­trated as I watch this Repub­li­can ad­min­is­tra­tion push to ban trans­gen­der mil­i­tary ser­vice. Anti-trans­gen­der plat­forms are caus­ing me to eval­u­ate my party sup­port.

I have sup­ported many Repub­li­cans in elec­tions. The Repub­li­can Party more closely aligns with my beliefs in a less in­ter­ven­tion­ist gov­ern­ment. Demo­cratic Party poli­cies can be too costly and re­stric­tive on cit­i­zens. Low­er­ing reg­u­la­tions helps pro­tect peo­ple’s in­di­vid­ual rights with pri­vate prop­erty, busi­ness and in­vest­ments. In­creas­ing taxes and cre­at­ing or adding to gov­ern­ment agen­cies are not a guar­an­teed so­lu­tion to any prob­lem.

I have hoped the Repub­li­can Party would re­form from within and end its as­sault on the LGBTQ com­mu­nity. Yet, the party con­tin­ues to cham­pion poli­cies that marginal­ize me out of ex­is­tence, de­fine me as an ec­cen­tric char­ac­ter and per­se­cute me for us­ing the pub­lic re­strooms that cor­re­spond to my gen­der iden­tity.

As a re­sult, the GOP’s po­si­tions have forced me to re­fo­cus my at­ten­tion away from its agendas I sup­port. In­stead, I find my­self fo­cus­ing on is­sues to pro­tect my­self and oth­ers like me. Ev­ery dol­lar spent de­fend­ing trans­gen­der rights is one dol­lar less I can con­trib­ute to­ward other party ini­tia­tives.

Our Repub­li­can lead­ers are smart, but they too of­ten re­act to rhetoric based on emo­tion, not on sci­ence and re­search. I urge Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, other Repub­li­cans and those who de­mo­nize the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity to con­sult qual­i­fied ex­perts and eval­u­ate al­ter­na­tive points of view and facts to make in­formed de­ci­sions.

The mil­i­tary doesn’t ben­e­fit when it ex­cludes trans­gen­der peo­ple from its suc­cess. In com­bat, gen­der iden­tity is ir­rel­e­vant. When 300 peo­ple jump from an air­craft in flight in one-sec­ond in­ter­vals, what mat­ters is get­ting the job done.

When states pro­pose re­stric­tions on bath­room ac­com­mo­da­tions for trans­gen­der peo­ple, a vo­cal mi­nor­ity preys on peo­ple’s ir­ra­tional fears for their safety. I re­mind them, it’s against the law for any­one, any­where, at any time to ha­rass or vi­o­late oth­ers.

And con­sider that dis­crim­i­na­tion, vi­o­lence and re­jec­tion con­trib­ute to a 41 per­cent at­tempted sui­cide rate among trans­gen­der Amer­i­cans, com­pared with 4.6 per­cent for the gen­eral U.S. pop­u­la­tion, as the Amer­i­can Foun­da­tion for Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion has re­ported.

I ask Repub­li­cans to pri­or­i­tize poli­cies that im­prove our coun­try for all Amer­i­cans. When the GOP asks me to de­liver six- or sev­en­fig­ure con­tri­bu­tions for the 2020 elec­tions, my first re­sponse will be: Why should I con­trib­ute to my own de­struc­tion?


The Hu­man Rights Cam­paign with “equal­ity flags” in Wash­ing­ton in 2017.

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