What It Meant to Attend the State of the Union, as a Transgender Service Member

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February 6, 2019
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Congressman Rep. A. Donald McEachin and US Navy Petty Officer Second Class Megan Winters

This post was authored by US Navy Petty Officer Second Class Megan Winters, plaintiff in Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN's lawsuit, Karnoski v. Trump.

As an openly transgender, active-duty petty officer in the U.S. Navy, I have been trained to face adversity directly.

Last night, I did just that.

Surrounded by other military service members, I sat in the audience of President Trump’s State of the Union Address.

Among other things he said last night, President Trump called for unity in a deeply divisive time. This was just two weeks after the US Supreme Court declined to take up three cases challenging the proposed transgender military ban. The same ban that pits my core identities as a trans woman and a dedicated naval officer against one another under the fallacy that I cannot live as both.

Although I will obey the order of my commander in chief, the last year and a half has been an alienating and scarring experience and I truly hope to continue serving my country.

He also boasted of his high rate of job growth. This came hours after this morning when I awoke, like I have every single morning since the infamous ban tweets, with fear and anxiety that I will lose my own job serving my country.

Like so many others I proudly work with, I raised my right hand to defend this country, not to sue it. Like them, I live and breathe military service. But then there’s a part of me that feels incredibly isolated and alone.

The news of the transgender military ban, and the realization I may not be able to serve my country, felt like a core aspect of my identity was being ripped apart. My military career is as important and sacred to me as my own gender identity, and for the first time, my future is uncertain.

I am honored by Congressman Rep. A. Donald McEachin’s invitation to attend last night’s State of the Union Address. I’m grateful to Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN for representing myself and my incredible fellow plaintiffs in their lawsuit against the Trump administration for this ban.

Mostly, I am indebted to supporters of Lambda Legal’s work and their plaintiffs, who stand with transgender troops like me.

When I sat in the audience of my Commander-in-Chief’s State of the Union Address I did it for myself, my country, and the estimated 15,000 other transgender individuals who currently serve their country and face their challenges directly, too. I hope I made them proud.

Thank you for standing with me.