Transgender Guard captain angered, but optimistic after ban; 11,000 transgender people employed by military

Published 7:46 am Friday, July 28, 2017

Cathy Wurzer, Max Nesterak

MPR News/90.1 FM

Military leaders are still trying to figure out what to do after President Donald Trump’s announcement that he will ban transgender people from serving in the military.

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The directive came down in the form of three tweets yesterday morning, prompting several members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation to speak out in opposition.

According to reports by the Washington Post, the military now employs an estimated 11,000 transgender people, making it the largest employer of transgender people in the country. Tarrence Robertson is one of them.

Capt. Tarrance Robertson Courtesy of Tarrance Robertson

Robertson is a captain and company commander in the Minnesota National Guard, where he’s served for 12 years.

Robertson was on his way back home from two weeks of military training at Fort Lewis when he learned about Trump’s tweets. He turned his phone on when he landed in Minneapolis and was overwhelmed with messages from people asking him what he knew.

“I was really shocked,” Roberston said. “I think my primary reaction was anger at first, and then frustration, and then a lot of fear after that.”

Robertson was deployed to Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012. At that time he was living as a woman, Tara, and was then the first female Minnesotan to serve in a combat zone.

President Barack Obama lifted the ban on transgender people in the military last year. Robertson came out as trans and began transitioning after the ban was lifted.

“It was probably one of the scariest things I’ve had to do thus far,” he said. “Even more scary than some of the things that I did overseas in combat.”

But he was pleasantly surprised when those around him in the National Guard welcomed him with open arms. “They know the type of soldier that I am and caliber of soldier that I am,” he said.

As for concerns people have about the costs of and time needed to transition, Robertson said he hasn’t missed a single day of training or any training obligations since undergoing his transition.

Robertson and others are still waiting to hear from superiors on when the ban will take effect and exactly what it means for them.

“I’m trying to remain optimistic and to not think of what’s yet to come,” he said. “I don’t really know what this means, and I don’t know what I will do next if I’m told I’m no longer allowed to serve in the military because it’s become such an integral part of my life.”