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Local veteran on transgender ban: ‘This is personal.’



Trump’s transgender ban from military hits home. 

During her time in the army, Jessica Polacek largely hid who she really was.

President Donald Trump’s tweets Wednesday, announcing transgender people would no longer be able to serve in the military sparked a lot of debate.

The message was especially hurtful to Polacek, director of The Center 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection in La Crosse.  She’s retired Army.  A Sergeant First Class when she retired after 23 years.

Before she transitioned.

“For me and many others, we spent our entire time in uniform having to bury who we are,” Polacek told WIZM. “I fought for this country. I spent my time in Iraq from 2004 to 2005. I contributed 23 years of my life to this — in spite of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“And now, again, facing this ban of transgender people.”

When “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2011, gay, lesbian and bisexual troops could serve openly.  Not transgender members of the military, who were considered to have a disorder.

That began changing in 2015, when a Pentagon group was created to study the impacts of transgender troops.

The Trump announcement would reverse that progress, said Polacek.  In a substantial way.  

That could have a significant impact on the estimated 15 thousand soldiers, sailors and airmen currently serving.

Polacek said president Trump’s announcement seemed to come from ignorance or a reluctance to simply accept.

“It’s just who we are as people. We have not done anything wrong,” Polacek said. “You look at our records, chances are that we’re going to be top of the class because we want to serve. We have a strong desire to serve.

“And we’re not talking about something like flaunting our sexuality or our gender. We’re asking to be allowed to do the things that we do without the fear of being thrown out.”

She called the ban, discriminatory and hurtful but also seemed to ignore the simple fact that transgender people are really just people.  

“Most of us keep a low profile,” She said. “Again, we’re not looking to flaunt who we are. We just want to be accepted as we are and live our lives the way anybody else does.

“We want to go and do our 9-5 at the office. We want to come home to our families. We want to be able to do our grocery shopping without being discriminated against.”

Trump, citing high medical costs and disruptions, announced his transgender ban on Twitter Wednesday morning.


Polacek said, both of the president’s claims are inaccurate and his ban significantly impacts the readiness of the U.S. military.

One study commissioned by the Defense department found that even “in the most extreme scenario” transgender medical costs would increase the department’s health care spending by $8.4 million.

That’s .13% of the department’s health spending.  It’s also about .001% of total defense spending.

Those amounts pale in comparison, said Polacek, to the amount the military has spent on training for the estimated 15 thousand transgender troops currently serving.



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