US transgender soldiers waiting to be allowed to serve their country again

Nic Talbott has dreamt of a career in the military for years.

He enrolled in a training programme while at university and spent his weekends in camouflage crawling through mud, or strategising in mock battle scenarios.

But a tweet by Donald Trump in July 2017 destroyed all of his plans.

The president’s tweet declared: “The United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the US Military.”

Mr Talbott said: “It was like my entire future had just been taken away in one moment over social media for no good reason.”

The 27-year-old has been living as a man since he was a teenager. He wasn’t treated any differently by his peers or the instructors who trained him. But his president decided he should not be allowed to serve his country because he is transgender.

“This ban treats transgender people as lesser people,” he said.

“This ban implies that we are not as worthy, we are not as capable, and none of that is true at all.”

It is unclear how many people have been affected by President Trump’s policy. Figures from 2016 show there were between 2,150 and 10,790 transgender individuals in active service or in the reserves, according to the think-tank the Rand Corporation.

Mr Talbott had to drop out of his officer training course and he decided to fight the president in court.

After two years of legal limbo, the Supreme Court allowed Mr Trump’s policy to come into force.

Mr Talbott became a substitute teacher at his old high school, his dreams of a military career shattered. Then the coronavirus pandemic closed the schools.

“This whole time has been an absolute rollercoaster for me emotionally, physically, in my personal life, there are just so many unknowns,” he said.

He still does not understand why President Trump persisted with a policy that upended his life and the lives of so many others.

Mr Trump cited the healthcare costs of transgender members of the military. The military would pay between $2.4m (£1.8m) and $8.4m (£6.4m) a year if it covered the cost of medical procedures associated with troops’ gender-transitions, according to the Rand Corporation. Those figures are a tiny fraction of the Pentagon’s $49.5bn (£37.4bn) medical budget in 2020.

But a new commander in chief is preparing to inherit the keys to the White House.

Joe Biden implores the US public to wear a mask
Joe Biden has made clear his commitment to protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community

Joe Biden has promised to allow transgender people to serve openly in the military. He also acknowledged the support of the transgender community during his election victory speech.

Mr Biden has made clear his commitment to protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community.

“This is the civil rights issue of our time – if this fails think of all else that fails,” the president-elect said on the campaign trail. “It would have a profound effect on who we are as a people.”

Mr Biden promised that during his first 100 days in office he would pass a law that would make discrimination against the LGBTQ community illegal.

But his campaign pledges rely on Democrat majorities in both the House and Senate. Control of the Senate hangs on two run-off elections in Georgia on 5 January.

Democrats need to win both Senate races to hold the power on Capitol Hill and provide Mr Biden with enough votes to pass legislation.

“When I found out that Biden had won it was like a huge sigh of relief for me,” Mr Talbott said, adding that he thinks it is a question of when, and not if, transgender people will be able to serve openly in the military again.

“I know that the Biden administration has a lot of work to do, but this ban is something that could be overturned very quickly. I believe there are projections that say it could be done in about 30 days,” he said.

“I’ve spent my whole life preparing to go into the military. I’m really hoping that with the new presidency I can finally start to move on and be a real adult.”