FEATURE DOCUMENTARY SYNOPSIS - Premiered at SXSW 2018
The 2018 SXSW Audience Award-winning feature film debut by Gabriel Silverman & Fiona Dawson, TransMilitary follows the Emmy-nominated short film Transgender, at War and in Love. Around 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military (notably the largest transgender employer in the U.S.), where they must conceal their gender identity because military policies ban their service. TransMilitary chronicles the lives of four individuals (Senior Airman Logan Ireland, Corporal Laila Villanueva, Captain Jennifer Peace & First Lieutenant El Cook) defending their country’s freedom while fighting for their own. They put their careers and their families’ livelihoods on the line by coming out as transgender to top brass officials in the Pentagon in hopes of attaining the equal right to serve. The ban was lifted in 2016, but with President Trump now trying to reinstate it, their futures hang in the balance again.
Fiona Dawson started the TransMilitary project in 2012 to create visual media for transgender service members and veterans to be seen and heard. In 2015, with her co-producers Jamie Coughlin and Gabe Silverman of SideXSide Studios she directed the short opinion documentary, Transgender, at War and in Love for The New York Times. This Op Doc was a huge success, becoming one of The New York Times' most viewed online short films. Furthermore, Fiona was given The White House LGBT Champions of Change award, the film won The White House News Photographers Association's Best Documentary, was nominated for a GLAAD Award in the Outstanding Digital Journalism – Multimedia category, and was a nominee for "Outstanding Short Documentary" in the 37th Annual News & Documentary Emmy® Awards.
Commissioned by The New York Times, directed and produced by TransMilitary creator Fiona Dawson in partnership with Gabriel Silverman and Jamie Coughlin of SideXSide Studios, Transgender, at War and in Love was released June 4, 2015 as part of The Times' editorial series Transgender Today.
In this 12 minute documentary, SPARTA members Logan Ireland (Air Force) and his fiancée, Laila Villanueva (Army) came out publicly as being transgender.
Ireland, 27, and Villanueva, 29, have a combined 16 years of service, four deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, and have received awards and commendations for their work. Yet Department of Defense medical readiness regulations prohibit their open service and classify them as unfit to serve.
On returning from six months in an austere environment where he was seen and treated as a male, this documentary shares how Ireland informs his home-station that he is transgender. Despite his military record stating him as female, Ireland's chief instructs him to adhere to male dress and grooming standards. “That means I can grow a shitty mustache,” Ireland jokes in the film.
However, Villanueva, a nurse in an Army hospital, is not accepted as a female by her leadership. She is required to dress and wear her hair according to male regulations, and is instructed to correct patients at work to use male pronouns.
On Thursday June, 30 2016 Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that the ban on transgender service members is lifted. TransMilitary continues to finish the feature documentary in order to help integrate policy change by touching hearts and educating minds.