Officials with the Army, Air Force, and Navy confirmed exclusively with INTO that transgender troops will be allowed to attend Sunday’s VMAs ceremony “in a personal capacity.”
The annual music video awards made headlines earlier on Wednesday when MTV president Christopher McCarthy extended an invite to trans military members in protest of Trump’s plan to remove them from active duty.
“Any patriot who is putting their own life at risk to fight for our freedom and stands for equality is a hero at MTV and to young people everywhere,” McCarthy said in a statement.
Since then, there have been questions about whether transgender troops would be permitted to participate. The armed forces initially claimed that the request was being processed. Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick, a spokesman for the Pentagon, told CNN that the Department of Defense was “reviewing the parameters of the request.”
Timothy Hyde, deputy director in the U.S. Army Public Office, confirmed that trans troops will be in attendance.
“They have been told that they can accept the invitation, but they have to do so in a personal capacity and be in civilian clothes,” Hyde tells INTO over the phone. “They will be representing themselves, not the military.
Representativeswith the Navy and Air Force also confirmed to INTO that service members with their branches would be authorized to participate as civilians.
Trans soldiers tell INTO that they’re ecstatic at the news.
“It is immensely gratifying to see that America is going to stand up for groups of people who just want to do their jobs, serve their country, and take care of their families,” says Brynn Tannehill, a veteran who served in the Navy for 17 years. “It sends a clear and unambiguous message that we will not allow discrimination against trans people.”
Kimberly Morris, who served in the Marine Corps for 20 years, calls it an “incredible opportunity.”
“Most of the people who project an anti-trans attitude is because they don’t see, know, or come into contact with anyone they know who is transgender,” Morris claims over the phone. “To have someone in the crowd who is being recognized, it gives us much needed visibility.”
“Transgender people aren’t that different than anyone else,” she adds. “We’re not monsters, lunatics, or pedophiles. We’re dedicated, hard-working, patriotic Americans.”
Trump is expected to outline a proposal for re-upping the ban on transgender military service in the coming days, reversing a 2016 decision from the Obama administration allowing trans troops to enlist for the first time. This decision was first announced in a series of tweets on July 26. At the time, the president claimed trans service would be a costly disruption.
“Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” Trump stated.
That claim has been debunked.
The Palm Center, a pro-LGBTQ think tank, found it would be 100 times more costly to remove the estimated 15,500 transgender people currently serving in active duty than to provide them with health care. An earlier study from the RAND Corporation estimated that medical care for trans service members would cost the armed forces a maximum of $8.4 million yearly.
With that policy set to go into effect, former West Point cadet Riley Dosh hopes the presence of trans people at the VMAs on Sunday will encourage others to speak out.
“One of the most important points in a movement is when alliesthose who are not directly involvedjoin and voice their support,” says Dosh, who was the first out trans person to attend the prestigious military academy. “Seeing faces of real soldiers that Trump wants to discharge will hopefully sway people who are silent about this issue.”
This would not be the first time the music awards have been used for LGBTQ advocacy.
Lady Gaga made headlines in 2010 when she brought LGBTQ members of the military who had been discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as her guests to the VMAs. Jason Collins, the first openly gay basketball player in the NBA, appeared at the MTV awards three years later. He introduced Ryan Lewis and Macklemore for a performance of the pro-marriage equality tune “Same Love.”
You can tune into the VMAs on Sunday at 8pm ET/7pm CT.