Transgender servicemembers prepare to defend their service on Capitol Hill

Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON – As Army Capt. Alivia Stehlik prepared to deploy to Afghanistan last year, she wondered if her status as an openly transgender woman serving in a military actively seeking to ban others like her would impact her ability to work with other soldiers in a war zone.

By the time she returned to her home station at Fort Carson in Colorado last month, she could answer that question with a resounding, “no,” Stehlik told reporters Tuesday, one day before she was scheduled to testify before House lawmakers on Capitol Hill about the military service of transgender troops.

“During my deployment to Afghanistan as a [transgender] woman, soldiers opened up to me,” she said. “They talked to me and told me things they never would have done before [my transition]. It seemed unusual to me, and I asked them why, and consistently they answered that they valued my authenticity and my courage in being myself.”

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