In a series of 2017 tweets, Donald Trump upended Nicolas Talbott’s life.
When Trump announced a ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military, Talbott, a transgender man, was in the process of enlisting in the Air Force National Guard.
From the time he was a child playing army with his friends, it had always been Talbott’s dream to serve. He refused to accept that this ban was the end of that dream. So Talbott spent the next three years fighting back. He not only became an activist, speaking out publicly against the ban whenever possible, but he also became a plaintiff in Stockman V. Trump, one of the original cases fighting against the ban.
1/5 The Trump Admin's cruel assault on transgender Americans has real-world impacts for many people, including Nicolas Talbott, a trans ROTC student who will lose benefits he joined for – health care & loan forgiveness – because of the Trans Military Ban.https://t.co/juPkopRYOB
— NCLR – National Center for Lesbian Rights (@NCLRights) December 6, 2019
“If you would have asked me ten years ago where I saw myself now, I definitely would not have guessed I would have been taking on a presidential administration in court,” Talbott told LGBTQ Nation.
There were many reasons he decided to join the case, but at its core, he said it was merely the right thing to do.
“The ban is based on nothing valid as far as trying to keep trans people out of the military,” he said. “It’s incredibly discriminatory, and I think the ban set a wider tone that trans people were somehow lesser or, using some of the language from President Trump’s original tweet, that trans people are somehow a burden.”
Indeed, The Trump Administration’s claim that trans servicemembers negatively impact military readiness has been repeatedly discredited. Not only did a Pentagon study find that two-thirds of military members support transgender people serving, but a recent study from the Palm Center think tank also found that the ban actively hurt military readiness by “compromising recruitment, reputation, retention, unit cohesion, morale, medical care, and good order and discipline.”
Research confirms that Trump's transgender ban undermined readiness. President Biden's decision to (again) lift the transgender ban is a triumph of evidence-based policy over prejudice disguising itself as a concern for readiness. https://t.co/ugRA8PQFQF
— Palm Center (@ThePalmCenter) January 25, 2021
And so, on January 25th, President Biden signed an Executive Order that not only overturned the ban, allowing transgender people to enlist again, but it also made it possible for current members of the military to transition while serving.
Talbott couldn’t find a way to explain how it felt to watch Biden sign that order.
“Since it happened, I have been trying to come up with the words to express my feelings on this, and I just can’t find them,” he said. “They don’t exist. I am so incredibly thrilled. I can finally move forward with my life now.”
He added that a recruiter has already been in touch with him from his old ROTC program.
Throughout the last few years, a time he described as living in limbo, he has not only made sure to maintain his physical fitness, but he has also almost completed a Master’s degree in global security.
“I really want to be able to bring that to the table to enhance our military, to enhance our national security,” he said.
I can’t even begin to find the words to fully express my gratitude for everyone involved in fighting the #TransMilitaryBan. Supporters, attorneys, friends, family, and everyone else, thank you for everything
— Nicolas Talbott (@nic_talbott) January 25, 2021
But the overturning of this ban is not only exciting for Talbott on a personal level.
“This is a great, exciting opportunity for the military, itself,” he said, “in that now we have opened a door for a huge number of qualified and highly motivated individuals to now be able to serve our country and to be able to do so openly and authentically.”
Of course, the work isn’t done. There is still discrimination against transgender people within the military that needs to be addressed, Talbott said, and it is also imperative to find a way to ensure that a ban like this can never happen again.
“Not only against trans people,” he said, “But against anybody else.”