Transgender veterans: Serving our country with honor, despite discrimination

In recent years, we have seen a growing number of news stories that portray transgender people in a negative light. These stories often focus on isolated incidents of violence or crime and they neglect to mention the many transgender people who are living peaceful and productive lives.

One group of transgender people who are often overlooked are transgender veterans. According to a recent study by the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, there are an estimated 15,000 transgender service members and more than 135,000 transgender veterans in the United States. These veterans have served our country with honor and distinction, despite facing significant discrimination.

For example, Joanna Clark enlisted in the Navy in the early 1950s, getting out in 1969 as a Chief Petty Officer. A few years later, she was asked to re-enlist in the Army as herself. She now has two honorable discharges, one from the Navy as her old self and one from the Army as her true self. She is in her mid-80s and lives in California.

Angela Brightfeather Sheedy served in the Army and co-founded Transgender America Veterans Association in 2003 with Monica Helms. Helms is a submarine force veteran, as she puts it, a Navy veteran for the rest of us. She is also the creator of the Transgender Pride flag, the original of which is in the Smithsonian.

Then there is Jennifer Pritzker, the richest transgender woman in the world and founder of the Tawani Foundation and the Pritzker Military Museum located in Chicago. Pritzker is a veteran of the Illinois National Guard.

These are just a few examples of the many transgender veterans who have served our country with honor and distinction, and there are so many others. They are an inspiration to us all, and they show that transgender people are just as capable of serving their country as anyone else.

The next time you see a news story that portrays transgender people in a negative light, remember the transgender veterans and service members who continue to serve our country with honor. They are a reminder that transgender people are just as diverse as any other population group, and that they deserve our respect and understanding.