Transgender veteran reacts to Trump’s ban

Shari Zabel (Photo: Fox 21 News/ Carly Moore)
Shari Zabel (Photo: Fox 21 News/ Carly Moore)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A tweet from President Donald Trump is causing an uproar in transgender communities across the nation.

The post said that transgender people are not allowed to serve “in any capacity in the U.S. Military.”

Numbers from a RAND report from the Department of Defense show there is an average of about 2,500 transgender people serving in the active military, which is less than 1 percent of service members.

The report also said only about 0.1 percent of trans service members would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy.

Shari Zabel served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.

“You look at myself who was a fighter pilot who ran the systems in the back,” said Zabel. “I’ve commanded over Bosnia and Herzegovina, I’ve commanded over Iraq. I’ve done it well.”

Zabel is a transgender woman from Oklahoma.

“To be anyone that was LGBTQ meant death,” Zabel said.

She began her transition after her service in the military.

“That’s discrimination, that’s bias, that’s bigotry,” Zabel said of Trump’s tweets.

She also said the president’s hateful comments don’t hold a lot of weight.

“My first reaction was, it’s a tweet,” she said. “Unfortunately what my concern is, if those set of tweets become policy.”

We reached out to the local military installations, but they declined to comment and referred us to the Pentagon.

The Department of Defense released a brief statement on their website:

The Department of Defense is awaiting formal guidance from the White House as a follow-up to the commander-in-chief’s announcement on military service by transgender personnel.  We will provide detailed guidance to the department in the near future for how this policy change will be implemented.  The department will continue to focus on our mission of defending our nation and on-going operations against our foes, while ensuring all service members are treated with respect.

Zabel is worried more for her transgender comrades that are active duty right now, who were protected under a directive from former President Barack Obama.

“What are you going to do with those in active duty who are already out?,” she asked. “Are you going to show them the door?”

She said that although the future is uncertain for transgender people in the military, this remark is still raising awareness about what “transgender” means.  She said this conversation is still about raising awareness.

“People would be killed because somebody said they were gay, said they were lesbian, and trans was just not even in your vocabulary. So if I would have come out then, I would have been in danger,” she said.

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