FORT WORTH, TEXAS - Transgender servicemen and women say there is uncertainty and fear following President Trump's unexpected ban on transgender people in the military.
"It has caused chaos, said Finnigan Jones, a trans man and Coast Guard veteran who runs the advocacy group Trans-Cendence International. "Are they going to be dishonorably discharged? Will they lose all of their VA benefits that they have fought and served this country for?"
Since the Pentagon announced that it would allow transgender people to serve openly last year, many have come out.
Tara, a Texas Army National Guard Specialist who asked not to share her name, said she decided to come forward and transition only after it was clear that she could continue to serve in the military.
"It's a very powerful thing to say, 'This is who I actually am,'" she said. "Treating this thing that we struggle with makes us better, as you would treat any other medical condition in the military."
Tara is a transgender woman. She said she joined the National Guard at age 18 in 2008. She was deployed in Kuwait in 2013 where she worked as a skilled mechanic when she came to realize that she was transgender.
She has undergone hormone therapy for the last 13 months, taking pills daily to suppress her testosterone and introduce estrogen. She says since coming out, she has received support from many of her fellow soldiers and also from unit commanders.
"They said, 'I'm here. I support you,'" she recalled. "It was just nice to see the support growing and growing and growing."
Tara said the announcement for President Trump has made her question whether she can continue to serve.
"It feels like being baited out," she said. "They opened the door, and said it's safe to come out of the closet, and we came out, and they slammed the door behind us."
She worries whether it might affect healthcare for here wife and five children, who all depend on her benefits as a member of the National Guard.
"My wife has given up time away from me, time away from our children," said Anastasia, Tara's wife, who has supported her through her transition. "You put your life on the line."
"[There are transgender people] who genuinely want to serve our country," said Tara. "And being transgender does not qualify us from doing so."
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