President Trump’s tweets banning transgender Americans from serving in the armed forces not only sent shockwaves from the barracks to Capitol Hill, they also rocked the families of service members whose military health care coverage provides essential care for their transgender children.
“I instantly started crying,” Amanda Brewer told NBC Washington. Her son was reading her the tweets and asked, “What does that mean?'”
“We’re one tweet away from your sister not getting to see the doctor,” Brewer told him.
Her 13-year-old daughter, Jenn, came out as transgender at age 11 but was at first denied coverage for her medical transition. In despair, she tried to kill herself.
“Nothing was working out for me,” Jenn told The Associated Press in an interview last fall. “And I kind of felt suffocated by all of the rules that had been put in place for people like me.”
That all changed shortly after June 2016, when the Pentagon lifted the ban on transgender troops serving openly. Now, Brewer, whose husband serves at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, said she’s worried that Tricare, the military’s health care system, will cut coverage of her daughter’s treatment because of Trump’s recent statements on Twitter.
“I just lost it,” Brewer said. She said her daughter asked, “’How long is it going to be before I don’t have to go march or stand or talk, I’m just allowed to be?'”
When she came out, Jenn was beaten up so badly by school bullies that she suffered a concussion and missed weeks of class, her mom told NBC Washington. But she said beginning a medical transition has improved her daughter’s life.
This week, Jenn got to meet another transgender girl who is just beginning her medical intervention. Her name is Blue, and she is 11. Like Jenn, she is transitioning from male to female.
Blue lives at Ramstein Air Base in Germany where her father is stationed. Blue and her mother, Jessica Girven, are staying with the Brewers while in Washington, having made the trip across the Atlantic to get medical treatment her doctors at Ramstein would not provide.
Despite their refusal, the U.S. military’s health care plan does currently cover the cost of puberty blockers: $15,000. Cross-hormone treatment is also covered for those who elect to receive it: estrogen for transgender girls and testosterone for trans boys. Gender confirmation surgery is currently only covered for active duty personnel who identify as transgender.