Gainesville resident El Farley-Barratt remembers the military during “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The 39-year-old veteran worked as a medical corpsman in the Naval Station Great Lakes’ hospital in the late ‘90s during the U.S. military’s policy against servicemen and women openly displaying their sexual orientation.
Farley-Barratt, a transgender individual who goes by they/them pronouns, said they remember the silence of their gay and lesbian colleagues — and the sense of joy felt once the policy was lifted.
But Wednesday, after hearing the president disparage transgender military personnel, Farley-Barratt’s heart sank.
In a series of three early morning tweets, President Donald Trump stated transgenders will no longer be eligible to serve in the military.
“After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” he wrote. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
The new policy will affect approximately 2,450 active transgender members of the 1.3 million active members of the military, according to The New York Times.
“I’m upset about all this, I really am.” the former Navy medic said. “I thought we were passed it.”
Farley-Barratt, an administrative assistant at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said at first they were simply confused by the news.
Everyone at the VA center just had training on how to work with transgender veterans, they said; the computer systems were in the process of being updated to offer gender-neutral pronouns; and the center recently began providing hormone replacement therapy.
“There are transgender people in the military right now,” they said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to them or what they’re going to do.”
For now, Farley-Barratt said their goal hasn’t changed. It’s all about community.
As president of the Alachua TranQuility Community Group, and as the parent of a 16-year-old transgender child, Farley-Barratt said it’s their mission to continue reaching out and offering support to the Gainesville transgender community.
“It doesn’t make any sense to discriminate,” they said. “I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing — connect people.”
UF officials, including the heads of Multicultural and Diversity Affairs and LGBTQ Affairs, have spoken internally about Wednesday morning’s news, UF spokesperson Janine Sikes wrote in an email.
“The matter is certainly something we are paying attention to,” Sikes said. “The University of Florida prides itself on being a safe and welcoming place for everyone.”
UF President Kent Fuchs has yet to make a university-wide statement on the matter. In reaction to Trump’s January immigration ban, Fuchs sent an email to students affirming UF’s belief in “inclusion and diversity.”
UF sustainability and the built environment sophomore Kyleigh Caicedo said by keeping transgender individuals out of the military, the president is merely weakening the country’s defense while perpetuating a stigma against transgender Americans.
“Being trans doesn’t prevent a person from loving their country and wanting to defend it, and it’s harmful to the trans community for Trump to suggest that through his ban,” the 19-year-old said.
Though Caicedo said she’s “disappointed and outraged” by Trump’s announcement, she’s confident it’s only temporary.
“Trump won’t last forever,” she said. “This is a major setback in our progress as a nation, and it definitely spreads intolerance in a country that should be an example to the rest of the world.”