The US Army has sparked backlash after releasing a profile on Major Rachel Jones, a trans-identified male, for “living her truth” as a trans person in the military, claiming it stopped Jones from having to battle “depression or suicidal thoughts.”
In an article posted to celebrate Pride Month titled, “Living Authentically Saves Soldier’s Life,” the US Army suggested that Jones, who is a Sustainment Command Cyber Division Chief, had to come out as transgender to prevent him from killing himself.
“When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s there was a lot of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric. I don’t think many people meant to do that, but it’s something I heard as I was growing up repeatedly. So much so that I was convinced I was inherently evil for being transgender,” Jones is quoted as saying.
“The pressure of hiding all of the time was so bad I grew up depressed and suicidal to the point that I always had a plan to end my life.”
The Army Major claimed that even during deployment, the greatest threat to his safety was himself.
“Since getting into therapy, I was able to detangle my feelings about being transgender and disconnect it with being evil and the suffocating shame. I started to accept and love myself,” Jones added, claiming that coming out as transgender was like “taking off a very heavy rucksack.”
The US Department of Defense shared Jones’ story to Twitter over the weekend, suggesting that Jones’s “journey from battling depression and suicidal thoughts to embracing authenticity inspires us all.” The post attracted ample mockery, with over 32,000 users piling into the replies to leave overwhelmingly negative comments.
“This mentally ill dude is in charge of things involving cyber security for the US Military. And you’re still afraid of hurting someone’s feelings,” conservative commentator Seth Weathers wrote.
Our enemies are watching. This is a problem.— Code of Vets ™ (@codeofvets) July 2, 2023
“The major should be removed from service and encouraged to seek help. You are charged with preparing, fighting and winning our nations wars, not a social convalescence organization. You are failing in your sacred duty,” US Army Veteran Brian Boru replied.
Jones also celebrated Pride Month in a video posted to Instagram.
“What Pride means to me is celebrating that diversity is our strength as a nation and as an army,” he says.
“Pride means something very special to me as a [sic] LGBTQ individual, and it’s a chance to show everyone what we have to offer in terms of the diverse skill sets that we bring, and the diverse ways of thinking that we bring into the team to make everything work better.”
Stephanie Allers, a suicide prevention specialist in the US Army’s human resources division, claimed that “the risk of depression, post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideation is twice as high for LGBTQ+ veterans and Soldiers who have concealed their true selves than non-LGBTQ+ veterans and Soldiers.”
However, a study released just last week from Denmark suggested that transgender individuals still have a 7.7 times higher rate of suicide attempts, and a 3.5 times higher rate of death by suicide than the rest of the population.
For those who had undergone gender reassignment surgery, the increased prevalence of suicidality still held, suggesting that Allers’s and others interpretation of the need for “living authentically” to stop suicide may not be accurate.