Transgender Veteran Looks Toward January 1 Date for Open Enlistment

By Shane Stahl • December 21, 2017 • 12:58 pm

Editor’s Note: This op-ed was written by Kimberly Acoff, a transgender veteran who currently lives in Fort Wayne, IN.

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Growing up in Selma, Alabama in the 1970s as a black, transgender woman, I learned really quickly how deeply the sting of disrespect could cut.

My entire life, I was told by my family members, my teachers, my pastors, and my neighbors that I was not worthy of respect. They tried to diminish my identity, force me to be someone I was not, and tell me that I did not belong.

As I was inundated with messages like these, I focused on one simple refrain: Liar, Liar, Liar. These people were lying to me – but if I could dig deep and trust myself, I could find my truth and rise above it all.

And I did. In my 30s, I stepped up to the call to “Be All You Can Be” by joining the Army National Guard. I was able to serve my country – but because I couldn’t live openly as the transgender woman that I am, I was constantly in fear of losing my job.

I think often about how much happier I would have been if I had been able to serve as my full self, and I’m thrilled that on January 1st, transgender Americans will at last be able to enlist openly in the U.S. military.

But we have to be cautious: Anti-LGBTQ forces, including President Trump and members of his administration, are doing everything in their power to fight back against the January 1 enlistment date. They are spreading misinformation about military readiness, disseminating ugly falsehoods about transgender recruits, and recycling the same kinds of lies that kept me down while growing up.

Freedom for All Americans Education Fund is working to share stories of LGBTQ people, expose the lies of anti-LGBTQ activists, and build momentum nationwide for comprehensive protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s vital work – work I’m proud to have been a part of.

I want to see transgender people able to serve openly on January 1 – but I want even more to live in a world where no one faces discrimination because of who they are or who they love. I want to live in a world where no one feels disrespected or held down by the shame of discrimination or ignorance

Let’s stand up against the liars and be all we can be.

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