Jennifer N. Pritzker is a retired lieutenant colonel of the U.S. Army, and upon her retirement in March 2001, she was promoted to the rank of honorary colonel in the Illinois National Guard. She is president and chief executive of TAWANI Enterprises, an umbrella organization that represents a diversified portfolio of brands including the Pritzker Military Museum and Library, the TAWANI Foundation and the Pritzker Military Foundation.
To me, restrictions on transgender military service are personal. I am a transgender woman. Before my transition, I served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. I am proud of the value I provided the military during my 27-year career.
I am also a Republican who generously supports my party. While Democrats accept the pronoun I prefer, I firmly believe the best government is that which governs least. It’s a mistake for the Republican Party to ask me to choose between my true identity and my philosophy of government.
For much of my life, I couldn’t explore my femininity without significant risk. If the military discovered I dressed as a woman, felt like a woman and identified as a woman, my career would have ended immediately.
My wish is that more Americans understood the expression of gender. The medical community has known for decades that sex and gender cannot be determined solely by birth anatomy or chromosomes. There are many physical, social and psychological elements that form a person’s gender identity. Transgender people such as myself need to express our internal identify so that others can see us as we see ourselves. Think of this internal pull like a north-seeking compass. Whenever it is used, the compass will point to true north. Femininity is my true north.
I’ve grown frustrated as I watch this Republican administration push to ban transgender military service. Anti-transgender platforms are causing me to evaluate my party support.
I have supported many Republicans in elections. The Republican Party more closely aligns with my beliefs in a less interventionist government. Democratic Party policies can be too costly and restrictive on citizens. Lowering regulations helps protect people’s individual rights with private property, business and investments. Increasing taxes and creating or adding to government agencies are not a guaranteed solution to any problem.
I have hoped the Republican Party would reform from within and end its assault on the LGBTQ community. Yet, the party continues to champion policies that marginalize me out of existence, define me as an eccentric character and persecute me for using the public restrooms that correspond to my gender identity.
As a result, the GOP’s positions have forced me to refocus my attention away from their agendas I support. Instead, I find myself focusing on issues to protect myself and others like me. Every dollar spent defending transgender rights is one dollar less I can contribute toward other party initiatives.
Our Republican leaders are smart, but they too often react to rhetoric based on emotion, not on science and research. I urge President Trump, other Republicans and those who demonize the transgender community to consult qualified experts and evaluate alternative points of view and facts to make informed decisions.
The military doesn’t benefit when it excludes transgender people from its success. In combat, gender identity is irrelevant. When 300 people jump from an aircraft in flight in one-second intervals, what matters is getting the job done.
When states propose restrictions on bathroom accommodations for transgender people, a vocal minority preys on people’s irrational fears for their safety. I remind them, it’s against the law for anyone, anywhere, at any time to harass or violate others.
And consider that discrimination, violence and rejection contribute to a 41 percent attempted suicide rate among transgender Americans, compared with 4.6 percent for the general U.S. population, as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has reported.
I ask Republicans to prioritize policies that improve our country for all Americans. When the GOP asks me to deliver six- or seven-figure contributions for the 2020 elections, my first response will be: Why should I contribute to my own destruction?