'How Did That Feel?' NPR Touts 'Trans Man' Veteran to Decry Trump Transgender Service Ban

On Wednesday, NPR's All Things Considered blatantly sided with opponents of President Donald Trump's proposal to bar transgender people from serving in the military, and avoided any supporters of the new policy. Host Kelly McEvers interviewed veteran Jordan Blisk, who served in the Air Force Reserve before then-President Barack Obama's administration lifted the previous ban in June 2016, and came out as transgender after leaving the military. McEvers failed to mention that Blisk is now a LGBT activist in Colorado. 

The public radio host introduced her guest by outlining  that Blisk is "a former senior airman with the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He served from 2011 to 2015. He's also a trans-man — meaning he was assigned female at birth. He enlisted in the military when he was 17 years old; and he says being in the military actually helped him figure out his gender identity." The veteran first summarized how her experience as an aircraft mechanic apparently helped her "break traditional feminine gender roles by being able to work on aircraft and, kind of, be one of the guys."

McEvers tossed three softball questions during the interview. She first asked, "With the ban in place — I mean, there was a ban in place on transgender servicemembers at that time — how did that play out for you?"

Blisk lamented, in part, that she "couldn't be who I was in my civilian life. And so, that manifested itself in things like my partner having to switch my name and my pronouns anytime we were out in public, to me being so afraid to use any bathroom...So it definitely caused a lot of problems in my personal life — a lot of stress."

The NPR host followed up by wondering how her guest reacted to the Obama administration's transgender move in 2016: "President Obama's defense secretary, Ash Carter, lifted the ban on transgender servicemembers. You weren't in active service at that time, but how did that feel when you heard about it?"

The veteran replied, "It felt good to know at that point that...the military, who is the largest employer of transgender people in the entire world...that they were making steps towards being affirming towards people like me." She added, "And so, now, to feel...this tension with what we're going through right now, it's very scary; and it definitely sends the opposite message of hope that I felt a year ago."

Near the end of the segment by asking, "It sounds like he [Trump] essentially wants to reinstate the ban on transgender servicemembers. I mean, knowing what you know about your own experience when there was such a ban in place, what consequences do you think that would have for trans-men and women now?"

Blisk answered, in part, by emphasizing that "if we're talking about potentially trying to go after troops that are currently serving, that's going to devastate them from a career perspective; from a family perspective; from a financial perspective; from every single way, because the military is everything to you when you're in."

The public radio journalist concluded by repeating her "former senior airman for the U.S. Air Force Reserves" label of her guest. However, McEvers didn't disclose that the veteran led a legal clinic at the University of Colorado Law School in April 2017 for transgender people interested in changing their names. Buzzfeed also released a fawning graphic novel-style article about Blisk in October 2016.

The full transcript of Kelly McEvers's interview of Jordan Blisk from the July 26, 2017 edition of NPR's All Things Considered:

KELLY McEVERS: A ban on transgender servicemembers could mean that trans-men and women would not be able to serve openly. And to understand how that would play out for people, we're going to talk to Jordan Blisk. He's a former senior airman with the U.S. Air Force Reserves. He served from 2011 to 2015. He's also a trans-man — meaning he was assigned female at birth. He enlisted in the military when he was 17 years old; and he says being in the military actually helped him figure out his gender identity.

JORDAN BLISK: That was the first time in my life that I was really exposed outside of the area that I grew up in. The military gave me a way outside of the world that I knew. I grew up in the — in the Midwest, and that was my first real experience being outside of it. And throughout that experience — and especially given the opportunity to perform as an aircraft mechanic — I was given the opportunity to be able to express myself in ways that I had really never been able to in the past. And so, you know, being able to kind of break traditional feminine gender roles by being able to work on aircraft — and, kind of, be one of the guys — it really started to bring out parts of me that I had kind of known were there, but didn't really have the words for. You know, I started realizing that — hey, my sexuality is this, but that doesn't mean anything as far as who I am.

McEVERS: With the ban in place — I mean, there was a ban in place on transgender servicemembers at that time — how did that play out for you?

BLISK: It was difficult, because during the same time that I was in the military — in the reserves — I was also a full-time college student. And some of the people that I was stationed with at my unit were going to college with me at the same time. And so, even though I was only serving for — you know, maybe two, three days a month, I couldn't be who I was in my civilian life. And so, that manifested itself in things like my partner having to switch my name and my pronouns anytime we were out in public, to me being so afraid to use any bathroom — because at that point, I wasn't comfortable using female restrooms, but I was terrified of using male restrooms — and being caught by one of the members of my unit; and then, being reported and eventually discharged. So it definitely caused a lot of problems in my personal life — a lot of stress.

McEVERS: And then, last year, President Obama's defense secretary, Ash Carter, lifted the ban on transgender servicemembers. You weren't in active service at that time, but — but how did that feel when you heard about it?

BLISK: It felt great. It felt good to know at that point that — you know, the military, who is the largest employer of transgender people in the entire world — the U.S. military is — to know that they were making steps towards being affirming towards people like me. It felt amazing. And so, now, to feel — you know, this tension with what we're going (laughs) — going through right now, it's — it's very scary; and it definitely sends the opposite message of hope that I felt a year ago.

McEVERS: We don't have all the details yet on what President Trump is proposing to do, but it sounds like he essentially wants to reinstate the ban on transgender servicemembers. I mean, knowing what you know about your own experience when there was such a ban in place, what consequences do you think that would have for trans-men and women now?

BLISK: I think it's absolutely devastating. I know a lot of people — very good soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines — who have dedicated their lives to the military and to protecting the United States. And for them to lose their career; to lose their family; to lose their support system; to lose their entire world — I mean, that's just — that's unthinkable to me, especially when they've done nothing wrong. And so, I think if we're talking about potentially trying to go after troops that are currently serving, that — that's going to devastate them from a career perspective; from a family perspective; from a financial perspective; from every single way, because the military is everything to you when you're in.

McEVERS: Jordan Blisk, former senior airman for the U.S. Air Force Reserves, talking to us about President Trump's announcement today that he intends to ban transgender servicemembers from the U.S. military, thank you so much.

BLISK: Thank you.


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