At GLAAD's San Francisco Gala on Saturday, Laila Ireland stood before LGBTQ influencers and allies and publicly denounced President Trump's decision to ban transgender people from the military. But it's not the first time she's spoken out against the ban.
Ireland and her husband, Logan Ireland, are both in the military — Laila served as a combat nurse for 12 years, and Logan is an Air Force staff sergeant who is still serving overseas — and they are both transgender.
The couple, who both started transitioning during their time in the military, have been fighting for greater understanding of transgender people in the armed services for years. They were the subject of a 2015 New York Times mini-documentary, Transgender, at War and in Love, and have been vocal about their experiences being transgender in the military.
Unfortunately, their fight is far from over.
In a series of tweets on July 26, President Trump called for a ban on transgender people serving in the military. That plan has since been put into motion and is expected to take effect in March of 2018. On Monday, New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins teamed up to fight the ban, adding an amendment that would forbid the military to dismiss any transgender people already serving — like Logan Ireland.
Still, the future is uncertain for transgender and gender non-conforming people in the military, or those who would want to serve. So, Ireland took the opportunity at the GLAAD gala to speak up about her experience in the military.
"My husband Logan would love to have been here tonight," she said. "But he's still on active duty, out there getting on with his job. But with this ban threatening us, we have no idea if his service will be cut short."
She tears up as she remembers the risk she and Logan took when they came out publicly as transgender, while both still active in the military.
"We chose to share our story so that everyone can see that trans people are no different from the next person who bleeds, or cries, or loves," she said. "People like me and Logan want to serve the country that we love — a country that is already great."
She and her husband, who wrote an op-ed immediately following Trump's tweets, are trying to shift the narrative around the military ban, she said. That includes the misguided idea that healthcare for transgender people is just costing the military too much.
"We are not a burden or an expense," she said. "Transgender service members, just like everyone else, fill critical military roles, such as commanders, drill sergeants, air crew, special operations, and marines. Removing us from units will disrupt core military missions. Because every day, soldiers risk their lives fighting for our constitutional right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
She ends her speech calling on military leaders to allow transgender people in the military to "have the same freedoms and integrity we so courageously protect."
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