By Parker Marie Molloy
Originally published on Advocate.com May 15 2014 12:17 PM ET
For the second time this month, MSNBC host Ronan Farrow has gone to bat for trans people. On yesterday's episode of Ronan Farrow Daily, Farrow was joined by Landon Wilson and Fiona Dawson to discuss the hot-button issue of trans military service.
Farrow opened the segment with yesterday's news that the Pentagon is mulling its options as they relate to the medical treatment of Pvt. Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman who is serving a 35-year-sentence in a men's military prison for leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, then pivoted to the broader topic of the U.S. military's ban on service by trans people.
After discussing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's recent statement, in which the Pentagon head espoused a belief that the ban on open military service by transgender Americans should be "continually reviewed," Farrow gave recently discharged Navy cryptologist Landon Wilson the opportunity to share what it was like after he was outed to his superiors.
"It was a little bit strange, because as soon as they found out it was a very quick process," Wilson told Farrow. "They pulled me completely off of my mission, and within hours they had me on a rotator headed back to the United States. There was nobody to fill my position, to do my job, because nobody was trained. At the same time, they were almost apologetic because they knew it was just the policy. Just a word changed everything."
TransMilitary host and producer Fiona Dawson joined the conversation, pointing out the financial cost associated with this ban and highlighting the fact that Wilson's training alone cost nearly half a million dollars.
"We are investing so much in people perfectly capable of serving, and their stories really need to be told," Dawson said. "Landon is just a classic example of this. We've been following his story for many months last year and actually filmed him before he was deployed in Afghanistan, and he at that time had no idea what was going to happen. Just to see this kind of waste of talent is just wrong."
"If you can do the job, you should be able to do it regardless of how you identify or how you're labeled," Wilson added. "The transgender community is not looking to be the exception, we're just looking to be accepted."
Between Wilson's recent front-page profile in The Washington Post, Hagel's appearance on ABC's This Week, yesterday's news about Manning, Farrow's MSNBC segment, and a New York Times op-ed, the topic of trans military service and the discrimination trans service members face may have finally reached a critical mass. But the question remains: Will the military change this unjust policy, which a recent independent study found has "no compelling medical reason?"