Transgender service members and their families dealing with fallout from Trump's tweets

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For months, Kiera Walker grappled with the decision of how and when to come out as a transgender woman to her fellow members of the Coast Guard. She had served in the Guard’s Duluth, Minnesota, station for about two and a half years, but her colleagues had known her only as Kieran, the male gender marker she used when she signed up for the Coast Guard Reserve years before.
Walker says she spoke with her superior and had his blessing before making an announcement to her colleagues during an all-hands meeting in July. It was “nerve wracking,” she said. Her wife, Brandie Walker, stood off to the side for support.
After Kiera Walker came out to the group as a trans woman, “There was a line to come over and shake my hand and tell me how courageous and brave it was to do that and how they’re supportive,” she told us
Her relief at being accepted was short lived, however. Exactly two weeks later, on July 26, President Donald Trump sent Walker and her family into a tailspin with three short tweets announcing a ban on transgender individuals serving in any capacity in the U.S. military.
“I remember that day very clearly, very vividly,” Brandie Walker told us “I happened to be scrolling on Facebook, and that was the first thing that popped up on my newsfeed, and I went, ‘This has to be fake.’”
Military leaders worked quickly to assuage some of their service members’ concerns without directly contradicting Trump. Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued his own guidance the next day, saying there would be no immediate changes until further instructions were handed down from the president. “In the meantime, we will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” Dunford said at the time.
The Coast Guard is the only branch of the military that falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, as opposed to the Department of Defense. While the Guard largely ends up following the same policies, Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, also spoke out in support of transgender service members in the wake of the tweets.
Zukunft said that after the tweets, he reached out to all 13 openly transgender members of the Coast Guard and referred to a conversation he had with Lt. Taylor Miller at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event in Washington on Aug. 1.
“Taylor’s family has disowned her. Her family is the United States Coast Guard. And I told Taylor, ‘I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you, and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith,’” Zukunft said during the event. PHOTO: Kiera Walker and her wife Brandie have worked through her transition together.
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