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Cathrine Schmid photographed in Lakewood, Washington.

Staff sergeant Cathrine Schmid was prepping for physical training at Joint Base Lewis-McChord when Donald Trump sent the 6am tweets that would herald a drastic change in her career. 

The country “will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. military,” read Schmid, 33, via Google alert on that morning in late July 2017. But it’s a run day, she thought. So she ran four miles.

“It’s not like I’m the kind of person to let fear get in the way of doing my job,” says Schmid, a signals intelligence analyst and transgender woman. A month later, she became a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN challenging the ban, which becomes effective March 23, 2018. 

Raised as an evangelical Christian outside Portland, Schmid married before enlisting at 20, repressing her trans identity. “I thought I could overcome it with fervent religious belief, patriotism, and good old-fashioned heterosexual romance,” she says. None of it cured gender dysphoria.

After numerous service commendations and achievement medals and a combat deployment in Iraq, Schmid began transitioning in 2013. Her fellow soldiers were supportive.

“Most people said, ‘You’re a good NCO [noncommissioned officer], and that should be what you’re judged on,’ ” says Schmid. She has applied for a promotion to warrant officer but, despite her qualifications, she’s already been informed that her application will not be considered because she is transgender.

The suit asserts that the ban is a violation of equal protection, due process, and free speech protections. For Schmid, it’s about challenging an unlawful order: “People argue that it’s not a right to serve, but a privilege. To be honest, I agree. It’s one that I’ve earned.” 

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