It was an exhausting election season. Like many others, I find it hard to watch the endless political debates that fill our 24-hour news cycle, but it is even more frustrating to see politicians debating whether or not I should have basic rights, such as equal access to health care and job opportunities, just because I am transgender.
Attacks against the transgender community are more common in this election than in the past because some politicians in swing states like Michigan see attacks on people like me as a winning political strategy. Their goal is to use fear and misinformation to fuel division and win conservative votes by driving a wedge between Americans. But because I grew up in a rural community, I have seen that most conservatives have nuanced opinions. Many support me and the transgender community and believe that we should have the same freedoms and opportunities as others.
New surveys by Morning Consult and PRRI confirm that politicians’ attacks on transsexual Americans are indeed backfiring and could risk alienating moderates, young Republicans and military families alike.
The Morning Consult survey, which focuses on the current ban on military service for transgender persons, shows broad support for transgender service providers. It shows that more than half of the independent voters across the country support the service of qualified transgender troops. And a majority of military budgets, representing current and former military personnel who know firsthand what the military needs, also believe that the ban is incompatible with their core values and unfair to transsexual Americans.
The PPRI survey found that more than two-thirds of Americans are in favor of allowing transgender people to serve in the U.S. military, including 50 percent of Republicans.
Another recent survey conducted by Hart Research Associates and the Human Rights Campaign shows that Trump supporters in the Swing states, including my own state of Ohio, overwhelmingly support equal rights for LGBTQ people.
When I saw all these new surveys, I was encouraged to see that the national data reflected what I personally experience every day. I grew up and still live in the small rural town of Lisbon, Ohio. From an early age, I knew that the people around me often held conservative political beliefs. But I didn’t pay too much attention to which political party they were taking sides, because we just never talked about it. And when I came out as a transgender, the political affiliation of my neighbors and friends had nothing to do with how they treated me. People respected me overwhelmingly, and that was what counted.
I may have been the first transsexual person they knew, but they quickly realized that I was still the same person they knew and cared about as a child, so they worked to educate themselves and support me in my transition. Today, my community continues to support me as I fight to end the current ban on military service for transgender people, which has prevented me from fulfilling my lifelong dream of recruitment.
Many of my neighbors and co-workers have strong ties to the military themselves, and they understand that the ban runs counter to the core value of the military, which is to respect people for their actions and what they can do, not who they are or where they come from. Indeed, they recognize that the ban undermines our national security by denying our military the contributions of qualified transsexual recruits. Our nation is stronger and safer when people of all genders, races and backgrounds work together to protect our country.
Some of my closest friends currently serve in the military and often say they wish I could serve at their side. A veteran I have recently worked with told me that I am as strong and qualified a candidate as any of my friends who are currently serving, and there is no reason why I should not be able to commit myself. These are the same conservative Americans who are often the target of anti-transgender messages, yet they continue to express their solidarity with me and approach the military ban on transgenderism not as a wedge issue, but with a sense of pragmatism that is our