By attending the State of the Union address tonight, Navy Petty Officer Second Class Megan Winters hopes to show she’s just a service member like any other.
However, to Donald Trump and his administration, she’s not just any service member, because she’s transgender — and the president is trying to kick out thousands of troops solely because they are trans.
Winters will be attending the State of the Union as the guest of U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat from Virginia. She’s one of six trans military members attending as guests of senators and representatives in a rebuke to the trans military ban.
“It’s honestly a privilege just as a service member to be allowed to attend the State of Union address, let alone a transgender service member,” Winters tells The Advocate.
Winters, who is one of the plaintiffs in Karnoski v. Trump, a suit brought against the ban by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, says she intends “to put a face to the fact that I’m a service member and I can do my job every day … I’m just a service member.”
Winters has been in the Navy nearly six years. She joined because of her father’s record of service — he was in the Army. “I genuinely wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps in serving my country,” she says. She is stationed in Norfolk, Va., attached to the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush, which she describes as “the best ship in the Navy.”
She came out as transgender in 2016, just after Ash Carter, secretary of Defense under President Barack Obama, announced the lifting of the policy that barred transgender people from military service.
Then a year later, Trump announced that he was reinstating the ban. It’s been blocked by court orders issued in the four lawsuits challenging the ban, but the Supreme Court recently ruled that the ban could go into effect while the suits are heard in lower courts.
Winters has been able to stay in the military through a sort of grandfather clause, about which she can’t give details. “I will continue to serve my country as it stands,” she says. “My brothers and sisters should be allowed to serve.”
And that’s the point she and other trans service members will be making with their presence tonight: “We’re just service members and we’re here to continue our service.”