Transgender man's dream of joining U.S. military thwarted for now
From Rollo Ross
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Paulo Batista lifts weights and hits the books to fulfill his father's dying desire to join the U.S. military. But he says all he has heard from the armed forces is either silence or the door slamming.
Batista is transgender who was effectively banned from military service following a policy announced by US President Donald Trump in 2017 and officially adopted in 2019. This reverses a policy that former President Barack Obama's administration, after careful scrutiny, enacted to allow transgender military service.
Even so, Batista continues his search, hoping for a waiver or policy change that could allow him in, even if military recruits reject his appeals. He pumps iron into his garage, his muscular and tattooed arms can bench press 150 pounds. He does 100 pushups a day.
He is also studying for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, a test developed by the Pentagon to measure a recruit's potential.
"My heart is sold for this as a career. It feels like wearing that uniform," said Batista, 36, who is too old for the Army or the Marines and has focused on the Navy and Air Force. "If you love what you do, it is no longer a job and it would never be a job to serve my country."
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Trump's transgender policy can stand up while four separate lawsuits are pending in the lower courts.
Although most transgender military personnel were allowed to continue serving as of 2019, new recruits have been kept out.
"To the best of my knowledge, there are no transgender people who have tried to get involved who have been able to sign up since the ban went into effect," said Jennifer Levi of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders, one of the groups suing the Trump administration.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who was Obama's vice-president, has pledged to instruct the Pentagon to restore transgender people's right to serve in the military if he wins the November 3rd election. Polls show Biden leads Trump.
The Department of Defense said no officials were available to comment on the article and did not respond to a Reuters request for data on transgender recruitment data.
Batista presented himself as a woman when he entered the military's Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps in 2002, but dropped out to take care of his ailing father.
Fred Batista died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 69.
"All I want to do is make the one man, my hero, prouder of me from above," said Batista. "The true American dream we all know is sheer freedom, no matter who or what you are."
(Reporting by Rollo Ross, Mike Blake and Daniel Trotta; writing by Daniel Trotta; editing by Paul Simao)
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