Around 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military, where they must conceal their gender identity because military policies ban their service. TransMilitary chronicles the lives of four of the troops defending their country’s freedom while fighting for their own. They put their careers and their families’ livelihoods on the line by coming out to top brass in the Pentagon as transgender in hopes of attaining the equal right to serve. The ban is lifted in 2016, but with President Trump now trying to reinstate it, their futures hang in the balance again.
In 2015 Fiona Dawson, Gabe Silverman and Jamie Coughlin of SideXSide Studios were commissioned by The New York Times to produce the short opinion documentary, Transgender, at War and in Love. The short film was a great success, becoming one of The Times' most viewed short films. Dawson was awarded by The White House as an "LGBT Artist Champion of Change," the film won The White House News Photographers Association's Best Documentary, was nominated for a GLAAD Award and was a 2016 Emmy® nominee for "Outstanding Short Documentary." Our team continued filming to produce the feature version, TransMilitary.
On June 30th, 2016 Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ended the ban on transgender service members. While new recruits were delayed in joining, new inclusive policy for allowing transgender troops was in the process of being rolled out. However, on July 26, 2017 The President of the United States specifically put these service members front and center when he tweeted that he will reinstate the ban against them from serving in the U.S. military.
We are now on track to release our full feature length documentary, right around the time in early 2018 when Secretary of Defense Mattis must report to the President on if and how he will implement the new policy. But in truth, our film is not about this ban, nor about the President, nor the military. It's about how we treat people differently based upon their gender. It's about humanizing transgender people through the lens of the military.
FACTS ON TRANSGENDER SERVICE MEMBERS
- Some 15,500 transgender individuals are currently serving in the U.S. military.
- Transgender people are twice as likely to serve than cisgender (non-transgender) people.
- There is no other known organization that employs more transgender people than the U.S. military.
- The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT)" allowed lesbian, gay and bisexual people to serve, but transgender Americans were still banned.
- DADT was a law that was eventually repealed. The ban on transgender people was due to outdated policies within the Department of Defense.