Donald Trump’s tweet announcing a full ban on transgender service members in the U.S. military “in any capacity,” sent shockwaves through the nation and prompted responses from activists, celebrities, and politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Riley Dosh, the first openly transgender cadet to graduate from West Point, says she was completely surprised by the announcement. “I’m not surprised that this sentiment exists, but for such a drastic decision to be made without any warning whatsoever—over Twitter? It’s just…it’s ridiculous.”
We spoke with Riley about the news of the ban, how trans service members are taking it, and her plans for the future.
Walk me through your reaction: When did you get the news?
So I was actually woken up by a phone call from a reporter that I’d worked with—they told me about the tweets, which I had not heard about because I was asleep. So I woke up, asked the reporter to call back in a couple of minutes, and I went and read the tweets. I immediately started seeing all of the reactions coming out—both positive and negative reactions.
Finding out over Twitter must have been kind of surreal.
I mean, I know some people who’ve been serving for 20 years, over 20 years, and they got fired over Twitter? There are so many of my friends who are trans service members, and they don’t know if they’re going to be fired tomorrow—or if they should even come in tomorrow. There’s all sorts of reactions all across the board.
What’s the feeling among the trans service members you’ve spoken with?
The general consensus is, it’s just a tweet for now. We don’t know how it affects policy. Senator McCain’s office did release a statement about how this is just a tweet. It’s not policy. So nothing is really finalized yet.
Does the announcement affect your plans for the immediate future?
Not really, considering they kicked me out in May already. There was a slight chance I’d be able to [be an officer]—now that slight chance is most likely out the window. But, it would’ve taken me some time before I got back into the service anyway. Nothing is changing for me in the short term.
Do you think this policy will deter trans people from enlisting or just keep them in the closet?
In some cases, I think [it will deter them.] I mean, just reading the tweets and knowing that your boss doesn’t want you in the profession is a very disheartening thing, both if you’re in the military and if you’re trying to join the military.
I also know a lot of people who are trans and are trying to join the military. They already know it’s going to be difficult, and while it does make the conviction to join a little bit harder to hold, their conviction has not wavered because of a tweet.
What are your next steps?
I’ve been talking to reporters all day, since I woke up. I am all over the place… I’m very open to talking and advocating for the situation because I’m not military now, so I have this ability to talk about military things without being bound to military rules about talking to the press.
What would you say to a young trans person looking to pursue a military career?
Don’t let three tweets change your mind. If you want to join the military, join the military. What the president thinks about it will not change things ultimately.