Watch our Emmy® nominated short "Op-Doc" film "Transgender, at War and in Love," which shares the challenges of a military couple risking discharge simply because they are transgender.


This Op-Doc profiles an airman named Logan Ireland, who completes a deployment serving as male, the gender he knows himself to be. Remarkably, after telling his leaders and some peers that his sex was assigned female at birth, he receives their support—despite the military policies that prevent transgender people like him from serving openly. Meanwhile, his then fiancée, Laila Villanueva, who was assigned male at birth, has a similar scenario, but she works without the support of her command.

Their dreams of serving in the military until retirement, having a home, and creating a family are all on the line simply because of how society and the United States military discriminate against transgender people. Logan and Laila were aware at the time that by coming out publicly in this film, they could have been discharged.

When I speak to military audiences, I show a clip from “Transgender, at War and in Love,” and all of a sudden, like magic, the audience gets it. They come to understand that transgender service members are loyal Americans who want to serve their country, and who deserve respect just like all other members of the armed forces. Changing hearts and minds was crucial to convincing the military to allow transgender troops to serve, and this short documentary has been the key to that end.
— Aaron Belkin, Palm Center Director



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." This Op-Doc was a great success, becoming one of The Times' most viewed online 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 on 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. Right now we see transgender celebrities, actors and athletes but we don't know the transgender Americans who have less privilege and yet put their lives on the line to protect our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. 

From left filmmakers Gabe Silverman, Fiona Dawson, Jamie Coughlin and subject-matter-expert, Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld at the 37th Annual News and Documentary Emmy® Awards

From left filmmakers Gabe Silverman, Fiona Dawson, Jamie Coughlin and subject-matter-expert, Dr. Jesse Ehrenfeld at the 37th Annual News and Documentary Emmy® Awards