Map Pesqueira, a transgender University of Texas student, struggled to pay for his freshman year tuition with financial loans. He was counting on an ROTC scholarship to cover most of the expenses of his remaining three years in college.
But his future at UT is now uncertain as Trump administration policies on the service of transgender individuals in the armed forces might disqualify him from his scholarship and the military.
Pesqueira was set to receive the scholarship beginning next school year, but it's unclear if, under the current policies, he would be disqualified from serving in the military and receiving the ROTC award because he has a history of medical transition treatment.
The Trump administration in 2017 reversed an Obama-era policy that allowed people who identify people as transgender to join the military. However, as court rulings froze that ban as potentially unconstitutional, the White House modified its position. In March 2018, the Trump administration said transgender troops who are already in the U.S. military may remain in the ranks, but the Pentagon could require them to serve according to their gender at birth.
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The policy, which took effect April 12, also states that no person will be barred from joining the military based on gender identity, but all people could be subject to the standards, requirements and policies associated with their biological sex. Transgender people can seek waivers to these military standards, but officials have the final say.
When Pesqueira began asking questions about the policy changes this spring, it appeared that he didn't have enough time to get medically qualified to be grandfathered in under the Obama administration's policy, he said. And if that doesn't happen, he'd be disqualified from serving in the military.
A representative with the Department of Defense's medical examination review board said Wednesday that being grandfathered in remains a possibility, but there are no guarantees.
The DoD officials declined to comment on the status of Pesqueira's specific situation, but said that individuals are exempt from the current policy and fall under the Obama-era policy if they were selected into ROTC in their preferred gender or received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria while a service member. It's unclear whether this would apply to Pesqueira because he has not yet taken the medical exam required to qualify him for service.
Pesqueira has reached out to UT President Gregory L. Fenves and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, to talk with them about his situation.
Castro took to Twitter on Tuesday to talk about the issue.
"I call on (UT) and all universities to make up lost scholarship money for all transgender students affected by President Trump's transgender military ban," Castro tweeted. "It's not the students' fault they're losing these scholarships."
Ultimately, Pesqueira said he hopes the U.S. military will return to the policy laid out under the Obama administration and simply allow people who are transgender to join the military.
"I've wanted to join the military since I was a kid," said Pesqueira, who is from San Antonio. "I grew up going to the public events at Fort Sam Houston. Seeing the cohesion within the units and teams there just really inspired me and made me want to step up and serve my country. And later in my life, I came to know people in the military who had these incredible, adventurous stories. I do still intend to pursue a career in the military after I graduate if the policy is ever lifted or reversed."
This article was written by Katie Hall from Austin American-Statesman and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.