Democratic Rising Star Joe Kennedy Bringing Transgender Soldier To State Of The Union

“I want her to be there as a real person, and the face of an inhumane policy," Kennedy said of Staff Sgt. Patricia King.

Unlike some of his colleagues, Representative Joe Kennedy, a scion of the legendary Kennedy clan and a rising star in the Democratic Party, will be attending President Trump’s State of the Union address. He’ll be delivering the Democratic response and bringing Staff Sgt. Patricia King, a trans service member, as his guest.

Kennedy, 39, is chair of the Congressional Transgender Equality Task Force and has been outspoken in his criticism of Trump’s anti-LGBT policies, including the proposed ban on trans people in the Armed Forces.

Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

“I want her to be there as a real person, and the face of an inhumane policy,” Kennedy, grandson of Robert F. Kennedy and a great-nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Ted Kennedy, told the Boston Globe. “I don’t believe that [the ban] is reflective of our country at its best, or of the values Americans hold.”

Staff Sgt. King, who has been in the Army for nearly 20 years, served three tours of duty in war-torn Afghanistan and is currently station in Fort Carson’s 4th Infantry Division. She dismisses arguments that trans people are enlisting just to get transition-related procedures paid for by the Pentagon.

“There are much easier ways to get surgery covered than enlisting in the military, [facing] the possibility of deployment, and dealing with the stigma of being a transgender service member,” she told the Globe. “Every one of us who raises our right hand is prepared to give everything in the defense of our country.”

A self-described “church-going Christian,” King says integrating her identity into her religion hasn’t been easy but that her faith has actually brought her clarity and a sense of purpose

“Somewhere out there, there is a soldier, sailor or airman who is dealing with this on their own, and I want them to know they are not alone,” King told the Colorado Springs Gazette in 2015.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.