OC Navy veteran celebrates judge blocking Trump transgender troop ban

Transgender Navy Veteran Marsha Morgan at Adele's restaurant in San Clemente in Dec. 2016.
Transgender Navy Veteran Marsha Morgan at Adele's restaurant in San Clemente in Dec. 2016.
Courtesy of Marsha Morgan

Listen to story

00:55
Download this story 1.0MB

After a district court judge temporarily halted President Trump's ban on transgender people serving in the U.S. military on Monday, one transgender veteran in Orange County applauded the decision.

Fifty-five-year-old Marsha Evelyn Morgan of San Clemente was a sonar technician for fast attack submarines in the Navy from 1990-96. 

When she served in the Persion Gulf on the USS Topeka during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, "the lives of 130 crew depended on my ears. And a billion dollar vessel depended on my ears," said Morgan. "And they trusted me."

Morgan presented as male during her time in the military, keeping her female identity secret out of fear of reprisal or professional backlash. She remembered an episode when her shipmates discovered women's lingerie, which Morgan brought along for a connection to her female self. Fellow crew members confronted her.

"Fortunately I think fast on my feet," Morgan said. "I said they were trophies from women I had been with. And they bought that story."

When Marsha Morgan served in the Navy from 1990-96, she presented as Marshall. She had to hide her female identity while serving as a sonar technician on fast attack submarines.
When Marsha Morgan served in the Navy from 1990-96, she presented as Marshall. She had to hide her female identity while serving as a sonar technician on fast attack submarines.
Courtesy of Marsha Morgan

After leaving the military, she came out publicly as transgender in 2011. She's now a bus driver in the Capistrano Unified School District.

When the Department of Defense announced in June 2016 it would allow transgender troops to serve openly, Morgan felt hope that current members of the military would no longer have to hide, like she did for the years she served aboard subs.

That was before President Trump tweeted in July that he wanted a return to banning transgender people from serving in the military. For Morgan, the President's statements evoked a flood of emotions. "[I was] angry. Upset. Devastated, sorry for those that are thinking about going into the military," she said.

Morgan said she worries current service members are feeling whipsawed between the president's new policy and what might happen in the courts.

"They must be thinking, 'Oh wait a minute, now I'm going to get thrown out because once again, I'm being honest and truthful about myself,'" she said. "I can't imagine. I can't even wrap my head around that."

In July, Trump tweeted he imposed the ban because the military can’t afford the "tremendous medical costs and disruption" incurred by transgender troops. 

In her ruling Monday, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia wrote: "There is absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effective [sic] on the military at all ... In fact, there is considerable evidence that it is the discharge and banning of such individuals that would have such effects."

Kollar-Kotelly argued that the ruling was based on "disapproval of transgender people generally," and concluded that it likely violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

The judge did not block Trump's ban on spending federal money for troops to get sex reassignment surgery, saying it did not apply to the plaintiffs in the case. 

Morgan said transgender people are not a distraction and do not sign up to get their surgeries paid for.

"We’re not going in looking to transition," she said. "We’re going in to serve our country. To defend our country, our beliefs, our families."

The Justice Department said in a statement, "We disagree with the court’s ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps."

Morgan pointed to a 2014 report from UCLA’s Williams Institute indicating transgender adults are about twice as likely as the general population to have served in the military. 

Marsha Evelyn Morgan of San Clemente came out publicly as transgender in 2011. She served in the Navy from 1990-96 and now drives a bus for Capistrano Unified School District.
Marsha Evelyn Morgan of San Clemente came out publicly as transgender in 2011. She served in the Navy from 1990-96 and now drives a bus for Capistrano Unified School District.
Courtesy of Marsha Morgan