At the State of the Union, Donald Trump will have to face some of the people affected by his proposed ban on trans people serving openly in the military.
At least four congressional lawmakers, all Democrats, have invited trans veterans and active-duty service members as their guests to Tuesday night's proceedings, which you'll be able to stream live on YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere.
"I hope my guest and the transgender military service members and veterans in attendance bring attention to the harm the ban will do to individuals and the effectiveness of our military," says Chris Pappas, an openly gay representative from New Hampshire whose State of the Union plus one is Navy veteran Tavion Dignard. "We have important work ahead to realize full equality for LGBT Americans, and by telling personal stories we can change hearts, minds, and laws."
There's a long history of State of the Union attendees choosing particular guests to bring with them in order to bring awareness to a certain issue or put a human face on an abstract political debate. In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama invited Daniel Hernandez, the congressional intern credited with saving Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords' life after she was shot in the head, and DACA recipient Gabriela Hernandez attended last year's event at the request of Maryland congressman Steny Hoyer to call attention to federal immigration policy.
Megan Winters, a Navy Petty Officer Second Class, will attend the State of the Union Tuesday night as a guest of Representative A. Donald McEachin of Virginia. She tells Out that she is happy to put a human face on the Trump Administration's policy proposal that would effectively ban trans service members, except those currently serving, from serving openly in the military.
"I want to be before them as just another service member, to show them that the same as any other service member who's ready to stand up and defend this country in a way our representatives see fit," says Winters. "I'm a service member who just happens to be transgender -- an American who just happens to be transgender."
In addition to Winters and Dignard, Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) will have Navy Lieutenant Commander Blake Dremann as a guest, and Air Force Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland will be Rep. Jackie Speier's (D-CA) guest.
Though the ban, which the Supreme Court gave the greenlight to implement in January, would not exclude currently service members from serving in the military, Winters fears that it could stunt her military career or lead to discrimination and stigma in the military and beyond.
Dignard, a Navy veteran who will be attending as Pappas' guest this evening, shares Winters' concerns. He also worries that the ban could roll back the benefits he receives as a veteran.
"[By attending,] I hope to shed light on the fact that transgender military service members are no different than anyone who serves and should be treated the same way under the law," says Dignard. "I hope my presence can make a positive difference and start a conversation about just how backwards this ban is."
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