Transgender student loses Army scholarship because of Trump military policy, he says

A University of Texas at Austin ROTC student says he lost his U.S. Army national scholarship because he is transgender and already began transitioning. Now he’s raising money to continue his college education.
A University of Texas at Austin ROTC student says he lost his U.S. Army national scholarship because he is transgender and already began transitioning. Now he’s raising money to continue his college education. Screen grab of GoFundMe by Map Pesqueira

Map Pesqueira says he has wanted to serve his country through the U.S. Army since he was a little kid — but now that may not be possible because he is transgender.

“I was always captivated by the uniforms the servicepeople wore, knowing that they belonged to an elite team rooted in pride and unity that protects our country,” Pesqueira wrote in a GoFundMe campaign. “That was my inspiration for wanting to be a part of the military; that it wasn’t about the individual, it’s about being involved in something incredibly larger than myself.”

When he was a senior in high school, Pesqueira applied for and earned a three-year academic scholarship for the ROTC Cadet Command, he said. It was supposed to take effect starting his sophomore year.

Now, the 19-year-old University of Texas at Austin freshman says he lost that scholarship before it had the chance to begin. And he says it’s because of President Donald Trump’s new policy that bans transgender people from serving in the military. That policy took effect on April 12, according to The New York Times.

“The action follows a 2017 announcement by President Trump on Twitter that the ‘United States Government will not accept or allow’ transgender individuals ‘to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,’” the Times reported.

Pesqueira is a transgender man who began medically transitioning to his “preferred gender” in 2018, according to his GoFundMe page, where he’s raising money to continue a college education at UT Austin.

“I have been on hormone replacement therapy and living in my preferred gender for 15 months, just recently had top surgery, and have legally changed my name and gender marker,” Pesqueira said.

Top surgery “usually involves breast removal and chest re-contouring,” the Dallas Morning News reported.

“Since I’ve already had top surgery, hormone replacement therapy, gender marker and (a) name change, I can’t go in under this policy,” Pesqueira said, according to The Daily Texan student newspaper at UT Austin, which first reported this news. “I’d automatically be discriminated. I really do see (Trump’s policy) as a waste of resources, money, time and personnel. It’s made figuring out my future education so much harder.”

Pesqueira is studying filmmaking at UT Austin, as it’s “the way I can can feel most comfortable expressing my emotions, identity, and stories I have written throughout my life,” he wrote on his GoFundMe.

Pesqueira says he may consider switching to a community college without his scholarship, according to KSAT.

“I was told that my scholarship is void,” Pesqueira said, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Pesqueira’s GoFundMe, which was started April 11, has a fundraising goal of $20,000. As of Wednesday morning, it has raised over $8,000.

“I’m capable of serving. I’m up to standards,” he told KSAT.

In a statement, the U.S. Department of Defense gave “seemingly conflicting information about what the new policy would mean for transgender students with military aspirations,” according to the News.

“I’m checking on this, as I’m not aware of the specific case,” spokeswoman Jessica R. Maxwell said in an email, the newspaper reported. “However, policy states that anyone enrolled in ROTC for the upcoming academic year falls under the 2016 policy.”

That policy, enacted under President Barack Obama’s administration, allowed transgender individuals “to openly serve in the U.S. armed forces,” according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

“No person, solely on the basis of gender identity, will be denied continuation of service,” Maxwell said, according to the News. “Individuals are exempt from the new 2018 policy (and fall under the 2016 policy) if they were selected for entrance into an officer commissioning program, and either were selected into ROTC in their preferred gender or received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria while a Service member.”

University spokesperson J.B. Bird said the University will not comment on the case “due to privacy concerns,” according to The Daily Texan.

“Since every student’s situation is unique, we offer many avenues for students who undergo sudden changes that affect their access to a UT education,” the statement said. “These include Student Emergency Services and the Graduation Help Desk, which both work closely with the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid.”

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, tweeted on Tuesday that he calls on UT Austin, and all other universities, “to make up lost scholarship money for all transgender students affected by President Trump’s transgender military ban.”

“It’s not the students’ fault they’re losing these scholarships,” he said.

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