Yesterday, started out like any other day. I took a break around noon and decided to take a look at Facebook. The first thing that popped up in my newsfeed was a post by Jamie Lee Henry, the highest ranking transgender service member currently serving in the U.S. Army. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The post was about the suicide of her friend and fellow transwoman, Jess Shipps. Jess was an Air Force veteran who had proudly served our country and went on to advocate for other transgender service members.
As I read the post, I couldn’t help but think about an outing my family had just a few days prior with another military family in AMPA. We laughed, joked, and shared stories of our eventful lives as military families. Towards the end, the conversation took a more serious turn when the service member shared his feelings of identifying as transgender… feelings of being trapped in the wrong the body, yet serving his country for almost two decades… feelings of wanting to continue to serve his country, but openly, authentically, and honestly as who he is.
The anguish in his eyes was heartbreaking. I left with a renewed sense of awareness and respect for our transgender service members. I also left with a renewed sense that we, as a community, must do more for the transgender military community.
As friends and family mourn the tragic loss of Jess, we must stop and reflect on how we can help prevent another veteran from taking his or her own life. We must also walk hand in hand with our transgender community by promoting awareness and acceptance on the struggles and challenges they face. We must stand united.