Pentagon considers lifting transgender ban in military; transgender Fresno veteran weighs in

Transgender people could openly serve in the U.S. military in the coming months. Now, transgender Fresno veteran is weighing in on the issue and talks about his current struggles.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Pentagon announced on Monday it's considering lifting the ban for transgender people to openly serve in the U.S. military. The defense secretary says they're going to study how several medical and legal issues will be dealt with before they make a decision.

One Fresno veteran in transition tells Action News what it was like hiding his sexual identity from other service members. Nathan Alexander Garcia says his childhood dream was to be a soldier. But back in 2007 when he enlisted in the Navy, he was known as Susan Alejandra. For years, he says he was keeping his gender dysphoria a secret.

"Which is just dissatisfaction with one's gender, not identifying as what you see, and I just completely knew that was me," said Garcia.

Currently, those serving in the military who are openly transgender can be discharged on the basis that it's a mental disorder. But Defense Secretary Ash Carter says that may change as they study how serving openly affects service.

"Commanders who are trying to support these service members will have clearer guidance going forward on how to handle individual transgender service members and support them adequately," said Brynn Tannehill, a former Navy pilot.

The struggles Garcia faced while serving in the "don't ask, don't tell" era, he says, can't be changed. Now, after being honorably discharged in 2011, he's trying to get gender reassignment surgery.

"One of the first things he said why he didn't want to go through the transition at first was because we live in a very cruel world, and that broke my heart," said Giselle Quinteros, Garcia's fiancee.

Quinteros says the VA Central California Health Care System won't cover a mastectomy, and they have to travel to San Francisco for Garcia to get hormone treatments.

"At the end of the day, you go to sleep and wake up knowing the issue is still not fixed," said Quinteros.

Garcia says it's considered a cosmetic procedure for most insurance companies, but he argues the discomfort of binding his breasts -- combined with depression -- should be reason enough for coverage of the surgery.

"You know there's times when you just want to give up. You're just like nobody is going to help you, nobody is going to try to help you," said Garcia.

The lift on the ban is a step in the right direction, Garcia says, but he believes equality for transgender individuals is still a long ways off.

A representative from the local VA told Action News they do cover hormone treatments pending mental evaluations, but under the current directive, gender reassignment surgery is not a covered benefit.

If you'd like to make a donation for Nathan's mastectomy operation. Follow the link for his GoFundMe page.

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