The Department of Defense is expected to announce within weeks that transgender men and women will be allowed to openly serve in the military, several Pentagon officials told NBC News.
This comes as welcome news to U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Shane Ortega, who has spent 11 years serving his country, first in the Marine Corps and then the Army.
“I’m so excited about this lifting. I’m going to jump out of my skin,” Ortega told NBC OUT.
Ortega, who will medically retire on July 20, said it has been his dream to see the ban lifted before he leaves active duty. He said once the decision is officially announced, he looks forward to "weighing in and helping to implement this process.”
“Those serving right now, they need their command teams to be explicitly educated," he added.
Speaking to NBC OUT as he participated in a transgender rights march in San Francisco on Friday, Ortega said “trans troops serve in fear” under the current policy, and he added that not being able to openly serve forces you to “pretend to be someone else.”
Ortega then turned the topic to his mother, who also served in the U.S. military. “She’s a lesbian, and she served her entire 26 years of her career under ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell,'” he said, further describing how difficult not serving openly can be.
When the Pentagon does lift the ban on transgender people serving openly, as it is expected to do, Ortega said he expects it to have a ripple effect, adding “the nation will see this example of equality, and the nation will reflect on itself.”
His final takeaway, however, was not specifically related to the military.
“Nothing is impossible. I’ve been told millions of times this is never going to happen.”