The transgender military ban stopped me from serving with pride - that hurt more than anything
The transgender military ban removal has left Sergeant Zaneford F. Alvarez "relieved".
Echoing the sentiments of many US service men and women, he tells me: "I've been waiting for years for this day to finally come."
"I wanted to serve with pride, honour, and commitment"
Alvarez – who serves as a Behavioral Health Technician in the Navy – says that he and other trans recruits can now come to work "stress-free".
The ban was enacted in the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, but legally took effect in April of 2019. Trans personnel who were already serving were allowed to continue, but new recruits were locked out.
The move left some trans personnel fearing they would lose their jobs. For others, their dreams of enlisting to serve their country were shattered. And of course, it had wider implications on society. As sobering statistics have found, the trans community continue to face shocking levels of violence and discrimination, both in and out of the United States.
Alvarez was already enlisted at the time – but this did not stop the pall of fear spreading to him. "I was going through the motions for the longest time," he tells Four Nine. "I was [worried] that one day my leadership would tell me that I was going to be kicked out because I am transgender. That hurt more than anything.
"I come from a long line of service members throughout my father's side of the family. And I follow after my father who followed after his grandfather. I wanted to serve this country with pride, honour and commitment."
Coming out to his leadership, while he was in the process of transitioning, was a heartening experience for Alvarez. "My leader called me and assured me that she would do whatever she could to provide support and would continue to see me as a soldier," he recounts. "It was my first time experiencing being treated with respect and dignity in the Army as a transgender service member."
The Trump administration, however, proceeded to throw this into question for Alvarez, as well as countless other service members in the same position.
The transgender military ban 'hurt'
Alvarez tells Four Nine that a troubling aspect for him during the ban was turning away potential recruits.
"It hurt," he asserts. "I've had many transgender individuals approach me. They wanted to join and learn from my experience in the military. Part of the reason why our country's armed forces are so strong is because it is an all-volunteer force."
Within the army, he details, some service members had medical care denied. Others were discriminated against by their managers and peers despite being more qualified for a position or mission. Those of high rank also faced adverse action against their leadership, Alvarez adds.
Speaking about the landmark overturning, Emma Shinn, President of SPART*A and a Captain in the Marine Corps, said:"President Biden’s restoration of open service recognizes transgender service members as an integral part of our military. It closes a dark chapter of history. I am elated that the approximately 15,000 transgender service members proudly serving across the globe can rest easy. They now know that their service is seen, valued and that they can continue to serve as their authentic selves.
"Reversing this ban is a victory for all Americans. President Biden has given the gift of opportunity to thousands of individuals who will use it to serve the country they love," Bree Fram, Vice President of SPART*A and a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Air Force added, in a statement to Four Nine. "A military without the talents of transgender service members should be just as unconscionable as a military without African Americans, women, or lesbians, gays, and bisexuals."