Coast Guard Veteran and Conservative Wants Americans to Unite Around Shared Goals

By Adam Polaski • August 21, 2019 • 3:44 pm

Zander Keig doesn’t like to have his identity distilled down to just his gender identity. He knows that his life goes beyond the fact that he is a trans man.

“There are many facets [of my life] that I could share,” he said. “For example, I’m a military veteran. I worked for the Department of Navy and directly assisted more than 200 active-duty servicemembers with their gender transition pathway navigation. I’m a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. I’m a published author and editor of trans male nonfiction. I’ve been married for 17 years to an amazing woman. I’m a first-generation Mexican-American high school dropout and former special education student with three graduate degrees. I was raised Roman Catholic. I have served on the National Association of Social Workers’ National Committee for LGBT Issues since 2013. I have a seminary graduate degree in theology.”

Zander is also a Conservative and has signed onto Conservatives Against Discrimination, a program of Freedom for All Americans dedicated to elevating the voices of conservative Americans who support protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

“Regardless of our political differences or social differences or socioeconomic differences, we have lots of things that unite all of us,” Zander said. “I wish we could focus on the issues that impact the majority of trans people and put the politics behind us. I get that politics come into play and impact trans people, but I wish there was a way for us to come together and at least talk.”

Zander knows that too often, trans people’s lives are simplified to their gender identity, and that does a disservice to everyone. He wants to see the national conversation around dignity and respect for trans people go beyond identity. 

“Regardless of our political differences or social differences or socioeconomic differences, we have lots of things that unite all of us. I wish we could focus on the issues that impact the majority of trans people and put the politics behind us.” – Zander Keig

“I think a lot of the work that needs to be done is about getting people to accept and understand trans people,” he said. “And a lot of that work is about showing up and being a part of something. Periodically, I get involved with an event or activity that isn’t LGBT-focused, like a church group or community group. But it’s broader than just being present. I often disclose my trans status once integrated into the group, then I experience people coming to the conclusion, ‘Oh I like Zander. Zander is a trans guy. I am now more open to having trans people in my life.’ It’s about being visible, when safe, and helping people understand.”

That approach served Zander well as a clinical social work case manager with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense (September 2012 to May 2019). It builds on his two years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, where he worked as a firefighter, EMT and Boarding Team member at a small boat station in Southern California. 

Beyond his employment, Zander also works with trans veterans in other ways. He’s a board member of the Transgender American Veterans Association, which advocates for trans veterans and directly helps them navigate the sometimes-complicated Veterans Health Administration system.

Zander’s varied experiences have helped him to better understand the many ways that Americans think about their friends and neighbors – including the LGBTQ community. “There are many perspectives between the far left and far right – libertarians, moderates, conservatives and classical liberals who know how to speak the language that unites people,” he said.

Conservative support for ending discrimination against LGBTQ people is growing nationwide. A strong majority of conservatives believe that every American should have the freedom to work hard, earn a decent living, and provide for their families. And to pass the nondiscrimination protections that LGBTQ Americans need, it’s clear we’ll need progressives and conservatives alike to come together and push forward.

As we continue to work toward freedom for all Americans and comprehensive nondiscrimination protections nationwide, it’s important to keep Zander’s story in mind. Just as his story cannot and should not be limited to the fact that he is a trans man, no LGBTQ person should find themselves singled out because of who they are or who they love. We need to come together, share our stories, and continue to send the message that LGBTQ people come from all walks of life and all kinds of political and economic backgrounds.

Note: Views expressed in this article are those of Zander and do not purport to be reflective of the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, or the Transgender American Veterans Association.

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