Metro Weekly

Transgender airman reflects on Trump’s service ban

Sterling Crutcher is just one of thousands of service members who could lose out if transgender ban takes effect

Sterling Crutcher – Photo: ABC News.

On this Veteran’s Day weekend, it is likely that Sterling Crutcher will be thinking of his grandfather.

An airman first class and munitions technician based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, La., Crutcher was inspired to join the military by his grandfather, who had served in the Army and was his personal hero as a child.

“My grandfather always talked about his Army days, and talked about the missions he went on, and talked about his career all of the time, and would always tell stories. He was always so proud of them,” Crutcher tells ABC News in a short documentary called “Under Review,” which examines the effect of the ban on transgender service members. The documentary will air on Thursday, Nov. 16.

Unfortunately, Crutcher, a transgender man, may see his military career cut short after President Trump tweeted his plans to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military “in any capacity.”

Trump justified his decision to ban transgender service by arguing that the cost of providing health care for transgender troops was too expensive, and that the presence of transgender individuals, and ensuing questions about their accommodations, negatively impacts both military readiness and unit morale.

As a result of the proposed ban, Crutcher and his wife, Aimee, have put their plans to have children on hold. They are now trying to save money in case Crutcher is forcibly discharged from the military because of his identity. If he is barred from serving, they will also be forced to move off the Air Force base and find housing elsewhere.

“I wanted the Air Force to be my career. I wanted to stay in for a full 20, maybe 30 [years]. I wanted to raise my kids in this kind of environment. Having to leave that will be the hardest,” Crutcher says.

In the meantime, Crutcher, and transgender military members like him, are in a sort of legal limbo as March 23, 2018 — the date at which the ban is slated to take effect — inches closer. Currently, there are four separate lawsuits seeking to halt the ban from taking effect.

Lawyers for transgender service members and would-be transgender recruits are arguing the ban is unconstitutional because it unfairly singles out transgender people based on their identity, not their ability to perform their jobs.

On Thursday, plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits, based in Maryland, argued for a preliminary injunction to stop the Pentagon from moving forward with the ban until the issue is resolved by the courts. A second case is slated to be heard in California on Nov. 20. And a preliminary injunction has already been issued in a case out of D.C.

After Crutcher saw Trump’s initial tweets, he was crestfallen and saddened that he might have to leave the job he loves. 

“I didn’t want to believe that a tweet had that much weight on our life,” Aimee Crutcher said. “I told my husband, ‘Don’t worry, it’s just a tweet.’ I think we both knew deep down it was going to become more than that.”

Crutcher eventually took to Facebook to react to the President’s proposed ban.

“I put on this uniform every day not for praise or adoration. Not for some free healthcare,” he wrote in the post. “I do it because it was ingrained in me as a child by my grandfather. He spoke so highly and proudly of his years of service in the army. I joined because there is a sense of pride you get from serving your country and fighting for your neighbors.”

The post went viral, receiving more than 115,000 likes. Crutcher says he also received some blowback for sharing his story, but feels he should be allowed to serve.

“It was hard to see and read [the negative responses] but you know, I decided it doesn’t matter. The people that I’m working for, if they see that I’m doing a good job, then that’s what matters,” Crutcher says. “Because as long as I’m doing my job and I’m sticking to my oath, I will always put the mission first. I’ve done that in the past and I’ll continue to do that and I think that’s what matters.”

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com