By Katie Mercer @katiemercer_BM
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Videographer / director: Ruaridh Connellan
Producer: Katie Mercer, Ruby Coote
Editor: James Thorne
Hayden Brown says that just days after Donald Trump tweeted he was to ban all transgender people from the military, he received a call from his unit telling him he must revert back to female to continue his service.
The 23-year-old from Everett, Pennsylvania has been in the armed forces for four and a half years, in the Alpha 128th BSB.
When he joined in 2013, he identified as a woman, but began to transition to male a year and a half ago.
He said: “I knew I was a boy from a very very young age. I hated dresses. I remember fighting with my mom. She would always want to dress me up for church but I was always a Tom Boy.
“When I joined the military it all kind of clicked. I remember writing a letter home to my mom, saying I really really like it here because I am not genderised.
“In the army, it doesn’t make a difference if you’re a male or female. Everything is all ‘I don’t care if you're a man or a woman, you’re jumping over this obstacle, you’re doing what everyone else is doing.
“I knew I wanted to transition and I came out to my comrades during drill one day.
“I said I’m sorry if you feel uncomfortable and if you do, I’ll do anything I can to make you feel more comfortable.
“But they all said no, you’re the same person. We’ve always felt comfortable with you and this doesn’t change who you are.”
Hayden recalls Trump’s promise to support the LGBTQ community, particularly his claim that he would be ‘better than Hilary’ when it came to LGBTQ rights and freedoms.
After the election, Hayden decided to give Trump a chance and volunteered along with his unit to serve at his inauguration.
He explained: “The fact that I was there protecting Donald Trump and his family and for him to then come out and ban all transgenders from the military – it was a slap in the face. That’s what it felt like.
“I felt deceived. I had served for four and a half years. Where does this leave me?”
Outraged and hurt by President Trump’s tweet, Hayden posted a heartfelt message on Facebook that quickly went viral.
He wrote: I woke up this morning to my phone being blown up about trump banning transgender soldiers in the US military, I've had mixed feelings all day. At first, I was upset and thought, so my 4 years means nothing? Me standing there, amongst the chaos taking place in the streets, fighting to contain those who were revolting against you, defending you at the inauguration, means nothing to you? You didn't care then that I was a trans-soldier, but now you do? Then as I continue my day, this is what I have to say to you:
Go ahead knock me down because I'll get back up! Go ahead, tell me I'm not a person, that I'm not a human being capable of defending my country because my awards and certificates prove otherwise. I didn't join the military to get hormones or surgery, I've paid out of pocket for all of my shit. I joined because I wanted to do something bigger than myself. The military has no gender; you have soldiers! Regardless of your gender, race, or ethnicity, you are expected to do anything and everything the person to your left and right can do. So, as you ban 15,000 amazing strong soldiers, who you think aren't capable of carrying out missions like we have been doing, we will show you how strong we really are because this just made me want to be more visible. And, I'll stand up for my other brothers and sisters as well.
Mr. Donald Trump, my name is Hayden Jacob Brown and I am a proud transgender soldier, serving in the United States Army.
The post has so far been shared 94,424 times and had 158,000 likes and Hayden has received messages of support from all over the world.
Hayden said: “I wrote it just to tell Trump that I am here, I’m visible and I’m human. And that I can do anything anyone else can do. It went huge.
“I didn’t do it because I wanted to get my story out, I just wanted to let all my other trans brothers and sisters in the military that they are not alone and that we have to keep standing up. Because if we don’t, who will?”
Hayden has been with girlfriend, Mia, for a year and a half.
She said: “I fell in love with his personality and from the moment I met him, he has always been so proud to serve in the military. It’s been a life changer for him and got him on a good track.”
There are so many transgender people in the military. All they want to do is make a difference and to keep someone from doing that is disgraceful.”
Hayden said: “I will have to continue the rest of my contract as a female. I don’t want to but I don’t have a choice.
“It is completely pushing back everything that I’ve worked so hard for and so much of what I’ve strived to overcome.
“I’ve been transitioning for a year and a half, the military has not paid a dime towards my transition and I have served this country for four and a half years and then you tell me I can’t be who I am?
“Outside of the military, it would be fine for me to be a trans man. It doesn’t make sense.”
“After my contract is up, I will not be re-signing.”
When approached, a spokesperson from the Department of Defense would not comment on Hayden’s particular case, but said: “I can confirm that at this time the Department of Defense is awaiting formal guidance from the White House. Until that time there is no change to the current transgender policy. If a service member is being told something different they should engage their chain of command and medical physician for clarification."