As Transgender Americans Can Finally Enlist in Military, A Transgender Veteran Shares His Story of Service
As an Air Force brat, Ashley Scott lived everywhere from California to Virginia to Minnesota and in between. Growing older he constantly adjusted to many new living environments, he had always felt “different” and excluded, feeling something didn’t quite fit with who he was. Now a retired disabled U.S. military veteran and years after coming out as a transgender man, Ashley looks back on the journeys he’s had and now realizes why he felt so different all those many years.
“I was a very masculine ‘tomboy,’” he said. “I was always wondering where I fit in. It progressed through college. I sort of ‘went through’ lesbianism, and that still didn’t feel right. It was only after my time in the service that I found out what ‘transgender’ really meant, and that fit completely with what I was feeling.”
Now, Ashley is sharing his story publicly through The Ask & Tell Project, an initiative to gather and share the stories of LGBTQ people both currently serving in the military and those who are veterans. Freedom for All Americans Education Fund is excited to team up with The Ask & Tell Project to generate stronger understanding of LGBTQ veterans and servicemembers – especially as transgender Americans can at last openly enlist in the United States military, as of January 1, 2018.
“I think it’s amazing,” Ashley said about the start of open service for transgender people. “There’s definitely more work to do, as this is just the beginning. But the fact that we have a start is something to celebrate and will help educate a wider audience to see that being transgender doesn’t make us any less of a gender, a soldier, or a person!”
Ashley began his Army service in 2003 as part of the 457th Transportation Battalion shortly after, he was deployed to Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, where during his service, he turned 21.
“It was very interesting. You know, I was 21, and instead of drinking, I was holding a gun, worried about bombs coming over, sandstorms, things like that.”
After serving his full term in Iraq with one serious medevac to Germany, serving a few more years in the Virginia National Guard Band and ending by honoring those that didn’t make it home or served long ago in the Virginia National Guard Honor Guard where he trained others and also performed. During this time he moved to Virginia and met a friend who was beginning his journey as a transgender male. When he told his story to Ashley, he says bells rung and he knew then what he had been feeling all these years finally had a name.
Today, Ashley continues to accept himself as transgender and to work through his physical challenges as a retired disabled veteran. He hopes his story will resonate with others, particularly transgender youth.
“I would say to young people, be yourself and be happy with who you are. Be your own advocate. It’s not going to be easy, but it takes you on a journey that makes you the person you will become.”