Patricia (Trish) King redefines what it means to be a brave American. Trish spent her 20-year career in the U.S Army as an Infantryman and then she came out as transgender. This made her America's first transgender infantryman. Her story is one of overcoming, persistence, and dedication. Although she’s now retired, Trish continues to fight for the rights of transgender service people and those marginalized all across the country. She’s truly an inspiration to us all as she continues to fight for the rights of transgender service members and all people marginalized across the United States.
Finding Her Place
As a young person, Trish decided to join the U.S. Military as a way to challenge herself and push away discomfort in her mind and body. She decided to enlist in the military for the endless opportunities available and knew she’d be able to explore the world, and herself, to figure out her life’s direction. Much to her surprise, this turned into a 20-year career in the military (from which she just recently retired!).
After 15 long and dedicated years in the military, Trish finally decided she could no longer live life as she had been. She made the courageous decision to come out to her family as transgender.
Now, as the first transgender infantryman, she utilized all of the healthcare opportunities available to aid in her transition. It was a bold move because, up until this point, open transgender service members were not welcomed into the military. In turn, Trish faced the possibility of discharge simply for being true to herself. Fortunately, the military changed its stance right around the same time that she came out in anticipation of the Department of Defense’s new policy allowing open transgender service.
Not only was Trish America’s first transgender infantryman, but she was also the first enlisted woman in the infantry at all. That's a lot of firsts! Prior to 2016, women were not allowed into combat-specific jobs. This was, without a doubt, a brave new territory – – and it still is!
We Didn't See This Coming
Suddenly in 2017, the safety of our transgender service members was at risk when Donald Trump began to openly object to allowing transgender service members to serve. Despite evidence and research to prove otherwise, the reasons sited were medical care costs, overall morale, readiness issues, and non-deployability. It was frustrating for Trish and others to hear this as prior research had already debunked these theories.
Where are We Now?
Although currently enlisted, active military transgender personnel is permitted to remain in their jobs, if a person is suffering any distress due to their dysphoria, they can be discharged. Today, you are unable to enter the military if you are transgender.
This is why we need fierce advocates like Trish.
Working Towards Change
The fight for LGBTQ+ rights is, unquestionably, a long and exhausting battle. During the Obama era, open transgender service was a realized dream. However, backward motion means the finish line still needs to crossed and it feels way too far away. Clearly, there is so much work to do.
Trish knows her role as an advocate is vital to the continued fight for social justice. For that reason, after retiring, she moved to Washington D.C. She now continues discussions with Congress members and those with the ability to make meaningful changes in the U.S. Government. This type of commitment to advocacy truly sends ripples through our communities. The call to action is clear: We all need to work together towards change.