The House passed an amendment this week to block President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender people serving or entering the military.
By 242-187, the Democrat-controlled House voted to add to a broader bill language that would block a 15-page Defense Department document that lays out the policy.
The issue has divided citizens and service members, but Cincinnati area transgender veterans are starting to speak out.
It’s not often that Kayla Davis takes her Army attire out of her closet, but when she does, it’s easy to feel her sense of pride.
“This was my Class A uniform that I wore in the military. There’s no way this would be anywhere near inspection-worthy,” said Davis. “Over here, you’ll see my personal ribbons I received.”
Davis secured and maintained firearms for the United States overseas.
“It really helped me develop as a person. Professionally, to gain discipline within myself,” said Davis.
But when Davis served, she was presenting as a man, the sex assigned to her at birth.
“I had always grown up knowing in myself that something wasn’t right. I knew at a very young age that I was a girl,” said Davis.
She suppressed those feelings until she couldn’t do so anymore after enlisting.
“The first couple years were agonizing. That’s the best word I can describe is agonizing. Not being able to be out with myself, no reaching out to anybody. I had to keep what I was feeling private,” said Davis.
She came out and began transitioning after she was honorably discharged.
So when she first heard about a ban against transgender people serving in the military, she felt the need to speak up for those who are still serving.
“It was a feeling of despair, knowing that there just was not a whole lot of recourse that could be taken in this moment. Because we have these people in such high positions of power who look upon myself and others like me and devalue our service to this country in such a way, and it’s heartbreaking,” said Davis.
In a statement to WLWT, the Department of Defense said that under the order, those who have been diagnosed with gender dysphoria can be removed or no longer accepted into the armed forces. The Pentagon said the goal is to maintain military effectiveness. Tim Throckmorton, with the Family Research Council, agrees.
“Those who are going through gender dysphoria, serving in the military, there’s a lot of things that are going on during that time. There’s medical attention, there are emotional issues, and so it’s more about military readiness,” Throckmorton said.
But Davis argues the medical costs are minimal and that in her experience, being honest about who you are opens up trust between soldiers.
“It sounds like a cheap excuse to enact discrimination against people you don’t understand rather than taking the effort to try to reach out and try to understand the soldier next to you,” she said.
A study by UCLA from 2014 estimated there were about 15,000 people in the military who are transgender.
The bill faces a tough battle, as Trump is likely to veto it if it gets to his desk.