The plan by President Donald Trump to ban transgender people from all branches of the U.S. military is “very personal” to Los Angeles LGBT Center employee Rudy Akbarian.
The 27 year old, who has served in the military for more than five years, got wind of Trump’s announcement shortly after arriving today at his job helping homeless LGBTQ youth find employment.
“At first I didn’t believe it,” Akbarian told reporters at a press conference organized by the Center. “My heart dropped a little bit. It hurt. I cried. It was very personal.”
In making his announcement via Twitter, Trump wrote in part: “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.”
To those claims Akbarian said: “I don’t know what’s distracting about us. We are service people doing our jobs. I enlisted in the military because I love my country, because I wanted to be part of something greater than myself.”
Akbarian pointed out that transgender people “are already a vital part” of the military and now they are afraid for their careers.
“Transgender service members serve as aircraft crew, mechanics, even drill sergeants, and in many other important roles,” he said.
Akbarian is one of more than 15,000 transgender military personnel currently serving. He has been advised not to reveal which military branch he is part of or where he is stationed.
But his chain of command is aware of his transition as are many of the soldiers who serve with him. In fact, in-between press interviews today, Akbarian was on the phone with his superiors. They’d seen him on TV, but that wasn’t what they were calling about. They were discussing his newest assignment, hoping he’d be able to continue serving.
“Not everyone responded well after learning I was transitioning,” he admitted. “But after spending time on missions and realizing we all share the same love for this country. We worked together and got the job done. The discrimination I’m facing now is from those outside the military, not those who work with me.”
It was just over a year ago that then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced that transgender people could serve openly in the US military.
At that time, Akbarian told Beverly Press he had been hiding his transition until “the point it was extremely obvious.” While some high-ranking soldiers initially were “really against” his transition, they eventually came around to say things like: “Dude, you’re one of the best soldiers we have.”