Bloomington resident Jordan Becker joined the Army National Guard in 2008 as Jordan Elizabeth Becker, a woman. In 2014, he dropped Elizabeth from his name, began hormone therapy and underwent surgery to become a man.
President Donald Trump announced on Twitter last week that he wants to ban transgender men and women from serving in the military. Pentagon officials said they don’t plan to make any immediate changes. Becker is determined to remain a soldier.
When he first enlisted, transgender individuals were not allowed to serve openly. When the Obama administration changed that rule, Becker says he was ecstatic. He promptly re-enlisted, this time in the Army Reserves.
There is no reason transgender individuals cannot serve effectively, Becker said.
“When I hear people say transgender troops are physically and emotionally unfit, that just blows my mind,” he said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. His full interview will air Monday.
The 26-year-old reservist said he received dozens of supportive messages within minutes of the president’s announcement.
“I’m overwhelmed by the support I received after Trump tweeted that. But it’s also extremely disheartening because I know for myself, I’ve worked so hard to get my gender changed so I can conform to male standards of the military. I know that thousands of other transgender troops have worked so hard to get where we are today,” he said.
In a 2016 report, the Rand Corp. estimated between 2,000 and 11,000 of the nation’s 1.3 million active duty troops are transgender. Becker maintains the number may be as high as 15,000. Transgender individuals experience an extreme dissatisfaction with their gender of birth, a condition known medically as “gender dysphoria.”
GLT News first brought you the story of Becker’s journey from female to male in 2015 as part of a series on transgender individuals living in the Twin Cities. Becker says he always wanted to be a soldier. Last May, he received an Achievement Award from his unit for his work as military policeman in the Reserves.
He maintains his transgender status doesn’t affect his ability to serve effectively as a soldier, physically or mentally.
Emotionally, “I think it increases my ability, just with all the adversity I deal with generally for being transgender. Being transgender has made me mentally and emotionally tough,” he said.
As to his physical capabilities, “There is not a single thing I can’t do. In fact, I can do things better than before. I can do more push-ups and have more endurance. I obviously want people to see me as a male, so in the military I conform to the male standards, especially the fitness standards. That requires shorter run times as a male and more push-ups,” Becker said.
Additionally, he said, “I can shoot a weapon better than I did before. I not saying that’s because of hormones. A lot of it is emotional and mental. I am more at peace with myself because I am who I always thought I should be.”
Becker is a professional fitness trainer and currently works at a school for at-risk youth. He is a burly man with ample biceps, a buzz haircut and trim mustache. He said before his transition from female to male was complete, he endured many embarrassing and difficult moments. He still had to sleep in the female barracks, use female bathrooms and occasionally shower in close proximately with women.
Now that his surgeries are complete and he has been on hormone treatments for three years, few in his unit besides his immediate superiors and human resource officials even know he began life as a female, he said.
“The unit I’m in now is phenomenal. They have done nothing but work with me and for me,” Becker said.
But transgender people still face many misconceptions and struggle to win acceptance.
In proposing the ban, the president said he believes it is too costly for the military to cover surgeries and medical treatments for transgender troops. Becker called that assertion “an excuse.”
“Everyone’s journey is different. Not every single soldier is going to have all the surgeries,” Becker said.
“Some people only stay on hormones and opt to have no surgeries. Some people have all the surgeries to make themselves feel better and conform to the body they feel they should be in, but not every soldier is going to have all the surgeries.”
He said he paid for his own breast reduction and genital surgery out of pocket and through private insurance. His hormone medication, he said, costs “$15 dollars a month. That’s it.”
Although transgender individuals have made extensive progress legally and socially especially in the few years, Becker said they still face many misconceptions.
“There is a soldier in my unit that for a high school project did a project on on transgender people. She told me if I would have known you were transgender beforehand I probably would not have wanted to be your friend.”
He said he believes the embattled president, under investigation for Russian meddling over the election and facing questions about potential financial conflicts and his ability to govern, is trying to cater to his conservative base.
“Donald Trump hasn’t don’t a lot of things he promised the people and to me this is him, trying to say, ‘Hey I am doing something.’ Donald Trump never served. He avoided the draft in military. I would personally love for him to stand in front of me and tell me I am a burden to the military,” Becker said.
You can also listen to GLT's full interview with Becker below:
WGLT depends on financial support from users to bring you stories and interviews like this one. As someone who values experienced, knowledgeable, and award-winning journalists covering meaningful stories in central Illinois, please consider making a contribution.