Just one day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order officially banning transgender people from serving in the U.S. military, six trans service members proudly walked the red carpet at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards—in a powerful statement against the discriminatory and unpopular policy.
The group included four active-duty transgender service members—Sterling James Crutcher, Logan Ireland, Jennifer Peace, and Akira Wyatt—who represent three branches of the U.S. armed forces (the Army, Navy, and Air Force). Joining them were two transgender veterans, former Navy Lt. Commander Brynn Tannehill and retired Army veteran Laila Ireland. The group has served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Qatar, among others.
The six trans service men and women walked the VMAs red carpet (which is actually blue) alongside the president and CEO of GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis, and August Getty, an LGBTQ philanthropist and fashion designer. Some members of the group donned T-shirts that read “Trans Military”, while others dressed in their formal military whites.
While being interviewed on the “blue” carpet, Captain Peace spoke on behalf of the group. “All we want to do is be treated like everyone else,” she said. “If you are willing to serve our country and you are among the most qualified in the nation, you should be welcome in the armed forces just like everyone else.”
Captain Peace also expressed how the President’s policy goes beyond being discriminatory, but also potentially puts our nation at risk. “Our nation is only safe if we have our best and brightest serving in the military,” she said.
MTV reportedly extended the invitation to the Department of Defense for transgender service members to attend this year’s VMAs on Thursday, August 24, following Trump’s Wednesday announcement that he planned to ban all transgender people from serving in the military on the grounds that their medical care is too expensive (despite the fact that the military spends up to 10 times more on erectile dysfunction medication than it does on transgender care). He put his plans into action just two days later, signing an executive order on Friday prohibiting the recruitment of transgender individuals to the armed forces, and banning the Department of Defense from providing medical care to current trans military members.
This is hardly the first time the VMAs has gotten political. In addition to MTV debuting the “Best Fight Against the System” award for politically charged videos this year, Beyoncé attended the VMAs last year with mothers of men who were killed as a result of police brutality, and Lady Gaga arrived in 2010 with four members of the military who were either discharged or asked to leave as a result of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Watch: How Trans Role Model Casil McArthur Learned to Express Himself Through Cosplay