Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered in Times Square Wednesday night to protest President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender service members in the military.
Police sources said that there were more than 500 people at the spontaneous gathering.
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Leticia James joined the crowd as it chanted demands for “equality” and “human rights.”
Mark-Viverito said she was “appalled and angry” at the president’s decision.
“Banning transgender Americans from military service is despicable, discriminatory and downright anti-American,” she said. “This City Council will continue to fight to defend the rights of all New Yorkers.”
Signs that read “Resist” in blue, pink and white lettering spotted the crowd. Other signs reading “Trans people are not a burden” and “Our diversity is our strength” speckled the crowd, too.
Erika Barker stood in the back, listening, holding a sign showcasing statistics that transgender service members in the military actually cost the government very little.
“I am here because I am a trans military veteran and served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo,” she told us.
A military combat photographer, Barker served her country from from 2004 to 2009.
We asked why she was present at the spontaneous protest. “I think that this is quite silly,” she says. “That trans members who are fighting for our freedom voluntarily only cost the DOD [Department of Defense] one-thousandth of one percent. I think there are some other dark issues deep down — dirty dark issues that this admin just doesn’t have the courage to say.”
Barker continued, “I think this is a distraction, possibly to distract us from the health care bill. I am not sure this is actually going to become a reality. This will eventually cost the country a lot more money, because eventually we will have a Democratic president again, and they will reinstate it. There are tons of people who are already hired, and there are policies already generated. There are people who specialize in this in the Department of Defense. We are going to unravel all that and then bring it all back. It’s going to cost us a lot more money.”
“We have never had an administration like this before,” Barker continued. “You listen to Donald Trump in the ‘90s and ‘80s and he sounds like a very articulate, well-spoken, smart guy. I think that guy most Americans would say, ‘Hey, this would be a good guy to be president.’ But this person now who is in his 70s is speaking with no credible language, doesn’t know anything about quantitative analysis, cannot speak to anything credible, just makes things up and has often been caught making things up and lying. It makes you wonder if he’s suffering from dementia. Something is not quite right.”
Barker explains she served before she officially transitioned.
“You couldn’t transition [in the military] back then,” she says. “I was taking hormones illegally, purchasing them off the internet. I was slowly starting to change. I had to get out quick, because you go get your physical and they wonder why you’re growing breasts and why you’re so skinny. Then they take a blood test and you get kicked out. You don’t get your honorable discharge.
“[Obama] was long after I left the military. Maybe if they would have changed something sooner, I would have stayed and made a career out of it. And where I was I had four Navy achievement medals within one enlistment. People don’t get more than two. I had four. I know other trans people who are insanely brilliant. There are a lot of great minds they are just throwing away due to this bigotry.”