Transgender couple fights for equality in US Armed Forces

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Transgender, at War and in Love

27-year-old Logan Ireland, who was assigned the female gender at birth, now serves as a male member of the US Air Force. Logan is currently stationed in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He recently told his commander that he was assigned female at birth.

There are currently an estimated 15,500 transgender people serving in the US military, but current policy prohibits their open service. While serving in the US military isn't easy as a transgender, Logan told The New York Times:

After telling his commander about his situation, he risked being discharged from the Air Force. Being a transgender in the US armed forces comes with a lot of secrecy. Even though Logan shares a bathroom with another male, he keeps his hormone shots and medical prescriptions hidden in a safe container. He takes his shots every Friday, and he's made sure to have his prescription next to his shots so that the legality of the substances are never questioned. When other guys ask him about being a transgender, Logan explains it as the mind not being aligned with the body.

Although the gender norms and judgement have created hardship for Logan, being in the Air Force has actually provided Logan with a safe haven. "Here in Afghanistan, a war zone, it's like a vacation to me because I can be myself," he said.

The day after Logan told his sergeant that he was transgender, he was called into the unit chief's office for an unexpected meeting. Logan was pleasantly surprised. The chief told him that they had his back "150 percent," and he even suggested to Logan that he should get rid of his female 'blues'--a formal army attire--and trade them in for male ones.

Logan's fiancée, Laila Villanueva, is also a transgender, and she was originally assigned to the male gender. Laila, who is stationed in Honolulu, Hawaii, has worked in healthcare management for the Army for 12 years, but she still faces issues and criticism. Army officials still correct patients when they use female pronouns for Laila, asking them to call her a male. This causes pain and frustration for Laila. "There shouldn't be any problem for us to serve openly," she said.

While being transgender in the armed forces is not easy, Logan's experiences have provided him with hope. After reflecting on his experience, he pleads, "Change your opinion on others like me."

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