Protesters take transgender rights to the RI State House

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Members of the transgender community and their allies came together Saturday outside the Rhode Island State House to protest President Donald Trump’s proclaimed ban on transgender people serving in the United States military.

Organizers of the event took to social media prior to Saturday, claiming “this decision puts many trans people’s livelihoods at stake and forces people back into the closet.”

“We wanted to hold it to make as much noise as possible just as a sign that we’re not going to stay silent,” protest co-organizer Nika Lomazzo told Eyewitness News.

President Trump’s Twitter announcement on Wednesday read:

After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow…Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming…victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you.”

“In my opinion this is so much less about taxpayer dollars and the military ban, and more so about scapegoating trans identities and trans people,” said Lomazzo at Saturday’s rally.

CBS News reports there are anywhere from 1,300 to 15,000 transgender Americans currently serving in the military. Eyewitness News met C. Charles, a transgender veteran, at Saturday’s rally on the steps of the State House. Charles was generally discharged from the military police in 2011 after six years of service. Charles was never told specifically if gender identity was the reason for the discharge, but says the ban is wrong.

“To generalize and to say ‘oh, you can’t do this because of this,’ not looking at the background, not looking at what the person has done, just for that simple fact, it’s not right,” said C. Charles.

“If a trans person feels that they want to serve for their county and possibly die for their country, they deserve that right,” said Lomazzo.

It’s still unclear how the President’s ban will work. There has not been any action taken as of yet in the U.S. military to enforce such a ban.

Those at Saturday’s event said it wasn’t only about protesting the President’s policies, but also to spread awareness of all issues transgender people face, including discrimination.

This story has been updated.