Like many transgender people, the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump was a deeply alarming and concerning turn for me in our country’s politics. At the time, I was an active-duty air mechanic in my seventh year of service in the United States Air Force. Unable to organize and protest in the streets — as millions did in the wake of that election and Trump’s disastrous presidency — and following the end of my service, I fought to organize on behalf of the 134,000 transgender veterans like myself with the Transgender American Veterans Association.
For years, transgender veterans have fought for the Department of Veterans Affairs to end its discriminatory restrictions on the forms of gender-affirming care that are provided by VA clinics and covered by VA insurance. But now, political extremists in Congress threaten to undo that progress and defund health care not only for transgender veterans, but for hundreds of thousands of transgender people who benefit from federally-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Transgender people in states across the country have had their health care threatened and their dignity denied by state-level restrictions targeting Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming care, banning it for transgender people under 18, and using the power of the state to persecute providers that support transgender people. Increasingly, however, these political attacks are going national, led by a bill introduced by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene that would bar any federal funds from going to gender-affirming care, censor information about this care from medical schools and research institutions, and make it a felony for any medical provider to support a transgender person under 18.
These same members of Congress have also latched onto the annual budget process as a new battlefield in this war against transgender people. Members of the House of Representatives have shoehorned in amendments into the federal budget that would defund insurance coverage for transgender people of any age in programs like Medicaid and Medicare and, in July, the House passed a version of the budget for Veterans Affairs that would deny myself and transgender veterans like me any access to medical care treating gender dysphoria.
The results of these amendments would be emotionally devastating and physically life-threatening. If cut off from this care, many transgender veterans will be forced to endure the disastrous effects of untreated gender dysphoria, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation as a result of physical changes and effects we know run counter to our gender identity. Support for this care spans the entire mainstream of the medical community, and I can personally attest to the importance of this care to my safety, my dignity, and my freedom to thrive in this world.
It is far from a coincidence these restrictions on my health care and bodily autonomy are being proposed right alongside restrictions on abortion access and support for active-duty recruits who need abortion care. The repeal of Roe v. Wade was the beginning of a slippery slope of human rights violations for transgender people and cisgender people alike. If we only fight issues in the identity we cling to most, we not only negate those parts of ourselves, but neglect the communities in need around us. Our government is actively stripping its citizens of our rights and we are getting what we are due. We are oppressed together; we fight back together.
To help us fight back, I’m urging you to send a message to your member of Congress — regardless of party — to stand up and fight back against these baseless and life-threatening attacks on transgender people’s safety, dignity, and autonomy. I’m proud to organize with TAVA and am consistently amazed at the strength and tenacity of my fellow transgender veterans. But none of us are as strong as all of us, and we need your help to defend equality and freedom for all.