Cleveland transgender veteran says President's tweets are 'slap in the face' to his service

Posted at 4:09 PM, Jul 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-26 19:37:06-04

Following the president’s tweets Wednesday concerning transgender citizens and their inability to serve in the military, one veteran decided to speak out and share his story.

“As a person in the military in general, when you’re a little bit different, it’s hard,” said Giovanni Santiago, a transgender veteran who served in the Air Force for three years from 2006 to 2009. “It was definitely a slap in the face because you serve your country, you serve honorably as many of us do and you just want to live."

Santiago said transitioning while in the service was a fight in and of itself. Now, he’s facing a new war.

In a vague series of tweets Wednesday, President Trump re-instated the U.S. military ban on transgender service men and women. He attributed the move to high costs associated with transgender surgeries.

“A lot of transgender individuals don’t even want to medically transition, they just want to identify as themselves and live their lives,” said Santiago.

“For a lot of people, the definition, or their definition of what it means to be American, is the ability to serve and taking that right away from people is taking away that right to feel like they’re connected to the country,” said Ryan Clopton-Zymler, Community Relations Manager for the LGBT Center of Cleveland.

At the LGBT Center of Cleveland, activists are working to inform the local trans community of their options. But with many questions unanswered, including what happens to the estimated 15,000 active service trans people, those options are hard to come by.

“Some folks are taking this to heart, some people are really seeing a person in a position of power ultimately dehumanizing the trans community in many ways,” said Clopton-Zymler.

It is still unclear what this will mean for active trans service members or veterans who might utilize the trans clinic at the Cleveland VA Hospital, the first of its kind in the United States.

According to national media, Pentagon officials were unaware of the President’s intention to reinstate the trans military ban.