KNOXVILLE (WATE) – A local transgender veteran’s Facebook post went viral and now she’s hoping her message will make a difference for other military service members.
Veteran Carla Lewis is from Blount County and currently lives in Antioch. The bold message on her shirt in the viral video says: “Transgender veteran: I fought for your right to hate me.”
“While I’m defending the constitution for everyone else, I don’t get to take full advantage of the benefits that are supposed to be there for me,” she said.
Lewis enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in June 1990 before transitioning. At one point, she had to go through a background investigation to get higher clearance.
“They had discovered that sometime in the past, I had spoken with a counselor about gender identity issues. Now, at the time, I didn’t believe it was a problem, but apparently, they did,” said Lewis.
The military honorably discharged Lewis in September 1991 citing a “gender identity disorder.” Right now, the Pentagon has a policy banning openly transgender serve members, but that’s expected to change soon.
Lewis says she believes her message will give transgender troops hope.
“I want them to hold on because I feel like their day is coming,” said Lewis.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the Pentagon would be looking at lifting the ban. That’s expected to go into effect in May.