Military service is part of Tarrence Robertson’s identity. But as a transgender man, he’s worried his life in the Minnesota National Guard will be ripped from him.
He and thousands of others are awaiting word on what will happen to them after President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that transgender people will not be accepted or allowed to serve in the military in any capacity.
“I can’t imagine not serving in the military anymore,” said Robertson, 34, of St. Paul.
Robertson, who was born on Minnesota’s Iron Range, enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard in 2005 and served one tour in Afghanistan as Tara, a female. Last summer, after the U.S. secretary of defense lifted the ban on allowing transgender troops to serve openly, Robertson began his medical transition to male.
By April, he legally changed his name and gender on his driver’s license and birth certificate. He also changed his name from Tara to Tarrence on his military records but is waiting on last month’s request to change his gender to male.
“I was hoping to have it completed as soon as possible because my commanding officer was afraid something might happen,” he said. “I’m angry. I’m scared. But primarily, I’m nervous,” Robertson said.
He planned to serve in the military as long as possible — 20 years or more. “I had hopes of moving up in rank, eventually becoming a commanding officer for a battalion and eventually a brigade.
“I just have to wait and see how this all plays out,” Robertson said. “You have thousands of people who are willing and want to serve in any capacity in the military. They’ve been doing their jobs without any impact and that’s all we want to do at the end of the day. We want to be able to serve our country.”
That’s how Minnesota native and Air Force Maj. Bryan Bree Fram sees it. Fram came out as transgender last summer, and like Robertson is concerned his military career could be jeopardized depending if and how the president’s words become policy.
While friends, family, transgender advocates and politicians voiced outrage over Trump’s tweet, Fram is measured and calm.
“I’m limited by what I can say by the fact that I wear the uniform,” he said while on a weeklong leave from his job at the Pentagon. “The best thing we can do is show up tomorrow, do our jobs, do it well. That’s the best ammunition we have to prove we are the ready, trained and equipped force the military needs.”
He’ll continue to serve unless he’s forced out. “I’m proud to serve my country,” Fram said. “I want to continue to do so.”