Logan Ireland and Laila Villanueva are both active-duty members of the U.S. military. They are engaged to be married, and both hoped to make careers out of serving the country they both call home.
They also both happen to be transgender. Ireland was assigned female at birth, while Villanueva was assigned male.
Ireland is currently deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he serves as the man he knows himself to be, with the support of his commanding officer and many of his peers. Villanueva, however, has not found support in her chain of command.
A new mini-documentary debuted by The New York Times on Thursday chronicles the couple's love story across the globe, across genders, and across current military regulations that technically declare a transgender identity grounds for involuntary separation from service. It is fittingly titled Transgender, At War, and In Love. Watch the 12-minute documentary below.
"Their dreams of serving in the military until retirement, having a home, and creating a family are all on the line simply because of how society and United States military policy discriminates against transgender people," writes Fiona Dawson at the Times, a producer on the forthcoming feature-length documentary TransMilitary. "Logan and Laila are aware that by coming out publicly in this film, they could be discharged."
Although the U.S. Air Force on Thursday announced some unexpected changes in how it will — or, more accurately, will not — discharge transgender service members simply for being trans, official military policy still leaves the estimated 15,500 transgender Americans currently serving in the armed forces with an uncertain future.
This reality has resulted in only a handful of transgender servicemembers serving openly over the past several years after their commanders decided not to follow the non-binding Department of Defense Instruction 6130.03. That rule dictates that any type of gender-confirming clinical, medical, or surgical treatment is evidence of "disqualifying physical and mental conditions."
Last month, The Advocate explored the intricacies of this situation with Sgt. Shane Ortega, who gained national recognition after filing a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union and going public with his story.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, who took office in February, has said he is “open-minded” about reviewing the policy, which has not been updated since it was written in the 1970s. But despite pressure from activists within the ranks and in Washington, the Pentagon has confirmed that no specific review of the transgender-specific ban is currently under way.
See what's at stake for Ireland, Villanueva, and the more than 15,000 other transgender troops in Transgender, At War and in Love, below.