Peppermint, Isis King, Candis Cayne, Jazz Jennings, more exclusively speak with EW
Transgender stars won’t stand for Donald Trump’s discriminatory views.
Following a series of tweets the 45th president released Wednesday morning, claiming “the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military” because “our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” celebrities and politicians alike swiftly condemned the controversial statements. EW spoke exclusively to prominent transgender personalities in the entertainment industry — RuPaul’s Drag Race star Peppermint, America’s Next Top Model contestant Isis King, The Magicians actress Candis Cayne, Trace Lysette from Transparent, and I Am Jazz’s Jazz Jennings — about their initial reactions to the dangers of Trump’s sentiment, what the future for equality looks like in America, and how community allies can assist their LGBT brothers and sisters. Read on for their full comments.
Initial reactions to Trump’s anti-transgender agenda:
CANDIS CAYNE: “I’m saddened by it. I feel like the leader of our country is marginalizing an already marginalized community in promoting hate throughout the country. Men and women who serve in our military really are in charge of protecting our freedoms, and that includes everyone. For a president to attack the very force that protects a society is a very sad day, and it’s never been done before, and he should be ashamed of himself. I think we have 15,000 trans people in all branches of government, who are serving their country and should be hailed as heroes, not marginalized and discriminated against.”
JAZZ JENNINGS: “Trans people embody courage and bravery. They stand in their truth and fight every day. Soldiers deserve respect for their service, not this.”
Are transgender medical costs a legitimate cause for concern?
ISIS KING: “I’m shocked he mentioned the tremendous medical costs. The percentage of trans people that transition in the military is very low. If he’s referring to tremendous medical costs of hormonal replacement treatment, that’s ridiculous. Hormonal replacement therapy — pills or shots – is no different than people taking medicine for other reasons.”
What it feels like to be labeled a “burden”:
PEPPERMINT: “He’s saying we’re a disruption. It’s a shame he’s unable to see that someone who feels like they can’t be who they really are, that’s more of a disruption.”
KING: “It goes back to bigotry. That’s his language for how he feels about us in general… it goes to show that he isn’t for the people, he isn’t’ for equality, and I can’t wait for him to be out of office. Hopefully, that’s way earlier than four years, because he’s dividing the country. Trans people are normal people… if the president wants to stir up the country, he shouldn’t use their medical costs as an excuse. We already have the lowest rates of job placements and the highest rate of homelessness when you consider trans people of color. If a transperson wants to serve and wants to have a job, what’s the problem? Medical costs? That’s ridiculous. I have friends and family members who have way more medical bills than me just popping a hormone pill once a day.”
CAYNE: “We are a part of this great society that we live in, and we who live in this country are proud to live here. It’s disheartening and it makes me sad that our president is calling us a burden, saying that we’re not worth the jobs that we’re performing. It’s a sad day for the trans community. It’s a sad day for the LGBT community, and really it’s a sad day for America. I know trans people who’ve served in the military and have been very proud of that. Trump’s statement negates everything they worked so hard for.”
What Trump’s anti-transgender sentiments mean for the future of LGBT equality:
CAYNE: “When you have the leader of our country advocating for more hate against our community, it makes life that much more difficult… We’re living in such a weird, tumultuous time right now. Our community is under siege. A lot of people didn’t think this would happen, but Trump is proving us wrong. I see a bright future ahead, but right now it’s always darkest before the dawn, so we need to fight, we have to march, we have to be strong until there’s a time to vote or impeach.”
PEPPERMINT: “While it is terrifying that Trump sent these tweets about this new agenda, one thing we have to keep in mind is our community has been through hard times in the past, and this may not be the last time, but I know what’s different now is more of us are out and we have more supporters now than we’ve ever had… we shouldn’t lose sight or hope. This is just a tweet. Tweets can be deleted, even if the sentiment of the tweet becomes a law or a rule. The next president can go in and completely reverse it, just like Trump did to Obama’s policies. He’s grasping at straws. Those that think they’re preserving history or putting a stake in the ground for history are delusional. We’re here, we will always be here, and we always have been here. There’s no tweet that can ever erase that.”
KING: “We are stronger together, we are strong people, and we are here. We’re just normal people, and it’s not right to take away our freedom.”
Views on transgender people already in the military:
PEPPERMINT: “If you’re going to be a protector or a first responder or in the military, that has to be a passion; When we recognize our service people and first responders and even our police, we recognize the bravery it takes to step up to the plate and go to work every day to protect us. Transgender service people are no different. In many cases, they have to display a different amount of bravery by deciding to engage and serve under a military that now will not accept, validate, or even acknowledge who they are.”
Do Trump’s ideologies adequately reflect the views of most U.S. citizens?
KING: “The popular vote already proves that society is moving forward with their way of thinking, and the younger generation has a more liberal approach to choices people make and just being open in general. I don’t blame him, I blame the people who voted for him, because he continues to do the things he’s obnoxiously said he was going to do. I go back to Pride month. The fact that he didn’t acknowledge it shows he’s not for the people. The percentage of people in America that are LGBT is so high, how can you say you’re for the people and yet continue to break down everything we worked so hard for?”
CAYNE: “His views represent the majority of his hardcore Republican base. They feel that way. He really put Jeff Sessions through it this week, and I think he tweeted today to feed his base so people would get off his back. This is about openly discriminating against a community. That’s never been done before. It’s like, let’s pick on the trans people because they’re the lowest on the totem pole.”
PEPPERMINT: “This is thinly veiled bigotry and it’s obviously discrimination. I don’t think anyone who spends even a moment with a trans individual can wholeheartedly say that they don’t like them just because they’re trans. Anybody who takes the time to get to know us is going to see that we’re just like everyone else.”
How words from the president negatively impact the trans community:
TRACE LYSETTE: “When you tell us we can’t fight for our country, you are once again alienating us and creating more separation from the rest of Americans. That becomes one more reason we don’t matter and our lives and service are seen as lesser because of it.”
On Caitlyn Jenner’s support of the Republican party:
KING: “A few months ago, Caitlyn and I had the pleasure of speaking together, one-on-one, and we talked about our different perspectives. Even her eyes are opening up. She comes from a different world than I do, in terms of being Republican and how she was raised, so I can’t speak to her point of view. But I’m sure looking back now she has to bite her tongue about the way she felt in giving Trump a chance… he’s just as horrible as we thought he would be. I met with her a few months ago at the Beverly Hills Hotel for lunch. We had a conflict last year, and I wanted to bring it up to her. She reached out to me and wanted to meet for lunch and talk about our different views. It was a personal, one-on-one lunch. I know she’s said some other things that were problematic. We come from different worlds, and that is what it is. If anything, her views can change, but it’s always going to be different from my view because I come from a lower income black home. I was homeless. I’m a black trans person, so our views will always be different. I didn’t have the luxury of freedom or easy job placement or anything like that, as so many other trans people of color haven’t, so our views are going to be different.”
What they’d like to say to young trans Americans right now:
LYSETTE: “To all of the trans people serving our country, I just want to say I’m so sorry that Mr. Trump doesn’t value you. Your time and efforts are not expendable. This is tragic.”
KING: “We shouldn’t be seen as a threat. We’re Americans and we deserve the same treatment everyone else gets. Younger generations should be encouraged and know they have people fighting for them. You have allies. Your trans elders are fighting for you. Each generation is going to get better… by the way voting went in the election, we know the younger generation is more liberal. It will continue to get easier for us. Stick in there and follow your heart and never feel like you have to hide in the shadows to be who you want to be.”
CAYNE: “Unfortunately I have to say this a lot, but you are loved, you are worthy, and if you feel like you’re losing control, find an ally, a family member that’s an ally, a friend, or your local gay community center to help you through these hard times. You are loved.”
How allies can help the cause:
CAYNE: “We’re a small, feisty, fierce community, and we will go to war if we have to, but we can’t do it alone. We need the help of our brothers and sisters and the LGB community. We need our straight allies to support us, the people who come up to me every day on the street and say oh my god I love you on that show… we need those people to take a stand because this has to end.”
PEPPERMINT: “Visibility is important. Always be out and visible. In times like this, where you’re in the military and you might be overseas and you suddenly don’t have the support of your country, your own safety is obviously more important. Consider whether or not you’re able to be out and visible. If you are, it’s important. We need our LGB, cisgendered brothers and sisters and heterosexual allies more than ever. Speak out on our behalf, make your love of us public. Talk about us even when we’re not in the room, about how great we are… it’s worth talking about and challenging ideas of people who may not even be aware.”