The United States military teaches troops they must believe in service before self.
“That’s part of the Marine Corps ethos is putting your troops, putting the mission ahead of yourself,” said Emma Shinn, a captain in the United States Marine Corps, who identifies as a transgender woman.
Shinn is also the president of SPART*A, the nation’s largest nonprofit working with trans people who are actively serving in the U.S. military.
“We show up, we are capable, we are qualified, and we help accomplish the mission everyday," she said.
Now, that mission to serve has less roadblocks with President Joe Biden recently signing an executive order reversing the Trump-administration’s ban on transgender men and women in the military.
“What I’m doing is enabling all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform,” Biden said.
In a recent statement, new Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin said, “This is the right thing to do. It is also the smart thing to do.”
That feeling is shared by Shinn.
“It allows our nation’s military to be more effective because we know that strength comes through diversity and diversity comes through strength,” she said.
Shinn estimates there are about 15,000 trans people actively serving in the U.S. military and many more are looking to enlist.
“It’s just about serving my country,” he said.
Batista was involved in ROTC back in high school and planned on enlisting in the Air Force after graduation.
Those dreams, however, had to be put on hold. He had to take on the role of his father’s caretaker until his dad passed in 2009.
“You only have so much time with your parents, so it wasn’t really a choice,” Batista said. “That was it for me. I always knew the military could come later.”
A year later, Batista started his transition.
Now 36 years old, he’s giving the military one more try before aging out.
“It’s more of a passion now more than ever because I’ve only got two years left,” he said. “And I’m going to make this regret that I live with not being able to do what I’ve always wanted to do all my life.”
He and others have a passion to protect as the next generation of transgender troops embraces service before self.
“We’re just like any other solider,” Batista said. "We’re here to protect you and serve our country 100%.”