JAYU’s Human Rights Film Festival (HRFF) opens its 7th installment with the powerful documentary TransMilitary, directed by Gabriel Silverman and Fiona Dawson. The film is based on outdated and discriminatory medical policies dating back to World War II, transgender people were banned from serving in the US military until July 2016.
While an estimated 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. armed forces, transgender service members have had to hide their identities due to the military gender-based restrictions.
TransMilitary follows Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace and First Lieutenant El Cook, as they work together to repeal the ban on transgender troops. As part of SPARTA, a group founded in 2013 whose primary goal is to get transgendered ban lifted, they have put their lives, careers, and families on the line.
Cpt. Peace recounts how things changed dramatically at work, the moment her team found out she is transgendered. Her superiors changed her job… They made her see a psychiatrist who said she’s not really transgendered. In her words, “I’ve been relegated to the corner where no one wants me.”
Sr. Airman Ireland is in a relationship with Cpl. Villanueva. Theirs is a bittersweet story. Ireland is readily accepted within his team while Villanueva is forced to accept an honourable discharge as she was not as ‘lucky’ within her team.
The group meets the top brass Pentagon officials, demands justice and inclusive policies. Other agencies in the US governement (including the CIA) allow transgender staff, and their inclusive policies shows they are effective. Why the US Military continues to deny their rights is beyond reproach in the 21st century, in my opinion. While the group did succeed to lift the ban in 2016, the Trump administration continued attempts to block transgender people from serving. On Aug 25, 2017 a ban was put in place again. Four lawsuits put it on hold. On Jan 1, 2018 prospective troops applied to enlist in the US Military for the first time.
In the midst of the current administration’s efforts to erase transgender rights, TransMilitary is a powerful reminder of the resilience and perseverance of the US transgender troops… and of the transgender community at large. It also reminds us that the fight for equity and equality is an on-going battle. Pun intended.
At the HRFF premiere for TransMilitary, guests will inclue Transgender rights activist and retired army veteran Laila Ireland (née Villanueva), subject of the film, along with the film’s director and executive producer, Gabe Silverman and Jamie Coughlin; 16-year veteran of Baltimore’s police force and unlikely community ally, Major Monique Brown (Charm City).
HRFF screenings will be taking place at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema from December 7 to 10. For full festival film list, schedule, and advanced tickets, please visit hrff.ca.