Those Who Wish to Serve and Are Able May

Addison Smith
4 min readFeb 10, 2021

The summer after my senior year of high school, I boarded a bus that took me to a plane that took me to the Recruit In-Processing Facility Orlando, otherwise known as Navy World, otherwise known as the now-closed Navy boot camp. The first step in my planned career in the US Navy was filled with excitement and trepidation. I was sure I would rise through the ranks as a nuclear technician serving on an aircraft carrier and become a commissioned officer one day.

Photo by Michael Afonso on Unsplash

Three weeks later, I left the Recruit Out-Processing Facility on my way back home. I suffered an asthma attack in my first PT test, my first ever asthma attack, which deemed me unfit for duty. Basically, they shaved my head and sent me home.

It was crushing. After my wheezing run around the track, a single medical exam derailed everything I had planned for my life. No military career. No training in a lucrative industry. No college after serving. Instead, I returned to West Virginia, where I grew up, and tried to pick up the pieces — living with my mom, working in retail and foodservice while saving up the money to go to school. I don’t think I can adequately describe the financial and emotional toll that event took on me. It took me five long years, but eventually, I made it to college and established myself in the community.

I share that experience with many people who were also told that they could not serve their country, not because of a debilitating medical issue, but because they are transgender. In my case, it did make sense to send me home, especially because the asthma was just a sign of an underlying issue that would have made serving impossible. For trans people who wish to serve or have been serving for years, though, it never made any sense at all.

We have known for years, decades really, that being trans is not a mental disorder. Being trans is just a possible outcome of human development having to do with neurology and endocrinology. It took a while to get it out of the diagnostic books, but the research showing that being trans isn’t a psychological problem began in the 1990s. Therefore, there is no reason to bar trans people from serving due to psychological issues.

Trans people also have no problem passing the military’s fitness requirements, so no one can argue that they can’t…

Addison Smith

I’m an LGBTQ+ DEI educator, activist, and writer living in the Midwest with my cat. Call me Addi. They/She. Booking and more info at