When Donald Trump tweeted plans for a ban on transgender people in the US army – the reaction was huge.
Not only did activists, celebrities, and politicians worldwide come out against the plans, so did huge swathes of the military. Retired military leaders to veterans lead the way in condemning the proposed ban. Indeed every level of the army got involved.
When AC1 Sterling James Crutcher in the United States Air Force posted a heartfelt Facebook status, it went viral.
For Veterans Day we caught up with Crutcher to find out how he found the reaction to his status, before discussing holiday and the ongoing ‘trans ban’ debate.
The status that brought him to the attention of the world told the story of being inspired by his grandfather:
‘I put on this uniform every day, not for praise or adoration. Not for some free healthcare. I do it because it was ingrained in me as a child by my grandfather.
‘He spoke so highly and proudly of his years of service in the army. I joined because there is a sense of pride you get from serving your country and fighting for your neighbors.’
Reflecting on this post he explains how not everyone was as welcoming as he hoped:
‘I had a lot of positive feedback and some negative feedback, where people called me names,’ Sterling tells Gay Star News. ‘As discouraging as that was, I knew focusing on getting the mission done was what matters.’
Trans army ban debate keeps going
Nearly three months on since the furor of the original debate – it continues.
The most recent ruling came from US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. She determined the transgender individuals suing over the ban would likely win; therefore, barring the Trump administration from changing policy on transgender personnel in the military.
Since the president’s tweets, the Trump administration has been facing lawsuits and opposition all the way.
So when the Department Of Justice overturned the ban, reverting to the 2016 Obama administration policy that allows trans people to openly serve Crutcher felt a huge weight lifted off his shoulders.
‘I didn’t feel like I needed to prepare to be discharged anymore. I could once again think about a career in the military.’
On veterans day, where the US remembers and commemorates fallen service people from all US conflicts, Crutcher has this message:
‘When we are faced with something we don’t understand or comprehend, a human reaction is to be defensive. I feel it is important that we all remember to take a step back and refocus. This is how we begin to build bridges.’
Military doctors have refused to treat me because I’m trans
Crutcher has an incredible sense of pride in his job and the US military. This comes across time and again in our interview.
‘I think it is important to understand that the reasons I joined are the same as anyone else. We share a drive to protect and do something greater than ourselves. Who am I does not impede my job or create any division in my unit. We all respect each other because we are here for a common purpose.’
Discussing what it’s like to be Trans in the US military, Crutcher speaks of his largely positive experience – at least within his unit.
‘I have received support from the entirety of my command on Barksdale AFB. They all worked with me as I have with them when starting my transition and ensuring that it does not conflict with the mission.
‘Even when I was deployed overseas, my command there was very supportive and we worked together to ensure the mission was the priority.’
But Crutcher definitely does see transphobia and has been the victim of it himself. One example he tells GSN is how a doctor once refused to conduct a medical because he is trans. It’s also something other colleagues are facing at worse levels than he has seen personally:
‘I have heard many stories but I do not feel they are mine to share.’
Which leaves the question, what does the US military do now, to not only clear up the damage done by the proposed ban – but generally step up its game in tackling transphobic discrimination?