I'm a transgender United States Air Force veteran.

I am a transgender United States Air Force veteran. 

I grew up with a strong interest in aircraft and electronics. I watched Top Gun so many times that I destroyed a few VHS tapes. I wanted to serve my country. The United States isn't perfect, but it is my home. I always knew that a military career was supposed to be my path. 

I joined the Air Force JROTC in high school, which led to my active duty service. I took the ASVAB and earned high aptitude scores for technology. I was offered a position on a nuclear-powered submarine, which I turned down. An Air Force recruiter told me about the Precision Measurement Electronic Laboratory, which was my dream job. I would have the opportunity to fix equipment that was used on Air Force One, build new models of test equipment, and develop new testing procedures. 

I did basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. It was extremely high stress and high pressure, but it was worth it to serve my country. We trained every day from the early hours of the morning until late at night. After graduating basic training, I was transferred to my technical school in Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi. I spent nearly a year there, learning electronic theory and how to calibrate multimillion-dollar machines. After my training there, I was transferred to Charleston, South Carolina.

The entire time, I knew that if I ever told anyone that I was transgender, I would be kicked out of the military. Serving my country was too important to me, so I had to suffer in silence, denying a true part of myself. If I could have served openly as a transgender woman, I would almost certainly still be in the Air Force today, and I would have ended up a better calibrator than I could have ever been when I was hiding. 

When my enlistment was up, the First sergeant called me to his office and asked if I would reenlist. I had to tell him that I could not. I believe he knew why, but we both knew that I couldn't say it was because I'm transgender. 

The Air Force taught me leadership skills. It showed me the difference between a good leader and a bad leader, and gave me plenty examples of both. I still use the skills that I learned there, and it gave me the strength to go on to new adventures that may not have been possible if I hadn't served, like join the Fire Service and stand up as a fierce advocate for our community.

Senior Airman Amber Lynn Kimble
Board Member and Social Support Coordinator, Louisiana Trans Advocates

Louisiana Trans Advocates