A group of six transgender service members and veterans walked the red carpet at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night as a show of protest against President Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military.
The men and women, some of whom are still active within the military, used the platform to speak out in support of diversity, praising MTV for giving them the chance to raise awareness about their cause.
‘I believe that America was built on diversity,’ Air Force Staff Sargent Logan B. Ireland told Variety at the event in Los Angeles, before adding: ‘To be able to be here to share that is a really good experience.’
Speaking out: A group of six transgender military members and veterans walked the red carpet at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards
Standing strong: (L to R) Air Force Staff Sargent Logan B. Ireland, Retired Army veteran Laila Ireland, Former Navy Lt. Commander Brynn Tannehill, US Army Captain Jennifer Peace, Navy Corpsman Petty Officer 3rd Class Akira Wyatt, and Air Force Airman First Class Sterling James Crutcher were joined by GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis (center)
Akira Wyatt, Jennifer Peace, Logan B. Ireland, and Sterling James Crutcher – all of whom are actively serving in the military – walked alongside veterans Brynn Tannehill and Laila Ireland on the carpet, with all six either wearing a T-shirt promoting their cause, or their military uniform.
Speaking to an MTV host on the carpet ahead of the awards, one person from the group noted that Trump’s ban could potentially see dozens, if not hundreds, of talented and valued members of the military being thrown out of their jobs – what would be a serious loss to the country.
‘Our nation is only safe if we have the best and brightest in our military,’ the group said, suggesting that this will no longer be the case if the ban is carried out in full.
The group was joined on the red carpet by GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis, who praised MTV for giving the trans military community such a high profile opportunity to speak out.
‘MTV has always been a leader dating back two decades with The Real World when they had the first person with AIDS on a show,’ she said of the network. ‘MTV has always been a leader and a responder.’
She added in an earlier statement: ‘MTV continues to be a pioneer and fierce advocate for the LGBTQ community by giving one of the most visible platforms to voices that need to be heard.
‘Throughout all the tweets, memos, and speculation, brave transgender Americans are still serving their country and defending the freedoms of this nation while meeting the same rigorous standards of their peers. We are proud to stand with them.’
Celebrity support: Before and during the ceremony, the group posed for photos with a host of A-listers, including America’s Got Talent judges Heidi Klum and Mel B
Helping hand: Songwriter Jack Antonoff spoke out to bash President Trump’s trans military ban before the ceremony, when he also posed for a snap alongside the group
Public platform: The group took the opportunity to speak out in support of trans people serving in the military during a pre-show interview on the carpet
Staff Sargent Ireland added: ‘Historically, the VMAs have been a huge platform for social issues that are currently happening, so being able to have that platform and share our stories is important to us.’
In a statement made ahead of the ceremony, MTV president Chris McCarthy offered his support to the transgender community, noting that he was thrilled to have the chance to give such ‘heroes’ a public platform.
‘Any patriot who is putting their own life at risk to fight for our freedom and stand for equality is a hero at MTV, and to young people everywhere,’ he said.
Before and during the ceremony, the military members took to social media to share images of themselves posing with a series of celebrities who offered their very vocal support to the group.
Singer and songwriter Jack Antonoff – boyfriend of comedian Lena Dunham – Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey, and America’s Got Talent judges Mel B and Heidi Klum all proudly posed for photographs with the group at the ceremony.
Speaking ahead of the ceremony, Jack insisted it would be ‘absolutely insane not to’ support transgender members of the military, before going on to express his ‘heartbreak’ at President Trump’s trans military ban – and his presidency in general.
‘It’s absolutely heartbreaking; a massive step backwards, as is every day with Trump,’ he noted.
The group’s high profile appearance comes in the wake of a directive from President Trump, banning new transgender military recruits and implementing a six-month time limit on deciding what to do with current transgender military members.
Friendly face: Teen Wolf star Tyler Posey is seen posing with Former Navy Lt. Commander Tannehill (left) and Air Force Airman First Class Sterling Crutcher (right)
Posing up: Actress Kyle Richards was featured on the GLAAD Instagram account, after snapping a picture with Army veteran Laila Ireland
‘They make us stronger’: TV host Billy Eichner also happily posed up for a picture with the group backstage at the awards show
Support system: The group praised MTV for offering them the chance to raise awareness about the importance of fighting Trump’s ban
On Thursday, the President issued a memo on how his ban is to be implemented, directing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to consider a service member’s ‘deployability’ when deciding whether to eject them from the military.
Plan in action: Trump’s ban on transgender military membershas now gone into action after the White House revealed how it was to be implemented
That means that if they are unable to serve in a war zone, take part in training, or serve on a ship for months, they must go, the Wall Street Journal reported.
It has not been spelled out exactly how the criteria will be assessed, however the Trump administration seems to be implying that it does not believe transgender service people are deployable.
The policy gives the Pentagon six months to oust ‘non-deployable’ transgender service members, bans new transgender hires and orders the Pentagon to stop paying for trans service members’ medical treatments.
It has been criticized by transgender representatives.
‘Transgender people are just as deployable as other service members,’ said Sue Fulton, the former president of Sparta, a military organization for LGBT people that advocates for open service.
New rules: Barack Obama (pictured with trans veteran Laila Ireland, right) changed longstanding policy, declaring that troops could serve openly as transgender individuals
‘Other service members may undergo procedures when they are at home base, just as other service members schedule shoulder surgery or gall bladder surgery,’ added Fulton, who achieved the rank of captain in the army, and is not transgender.
She said that there are no ‘ongoing treatments’ that would render transgender soldiers, sailors and pilots non-deployable.
‘Thus there’s no difference between the deployability of transgender service members’ and that of others, she said.
On Friday, Trump followed up his memo by giving Mattis the authority to decide the matter of openly transgender individuals already serving, and he said that until the Pentagon chief makes that decision, ‘no action may be taken against’ them.
The Obama administration in June 2016 had changed longstanding policy, declaring that troops could serve openly as transgender individuals. And it set a July 2017 deadline for determining whether transgender people could be allowed to enter the military.
Mattis delayed that to January 1, 2018, and Trump has now instructed Mattis to extend it indefinitely.
But on the question of what will happen to those transgender individuals who already are serving openly – estimated to number in the low hundreds – Trump seemed to leave wiggle room for exceptions.
A White House official who briefed reporters on the presidential order would not say whether Trump would permit any exceptions.