Jonah Minot loves the word soldier 'because it doesn't have a gender'

While Jonah Minot kept his grandfather company in a hospital earlier this year, a routine question by a curious nurse prompted a monumental moment.

“Who's this?”

“This is my grandson, Jonah,” he said. “He works with veterans and he's in the army.”

The seemingly insignificant exchange meant the world to Minot. It was the first time he called Jonah, who's transgender, his grandson.

“I knew my family loved me very much, but I've still been blown away by how accepting and loving they've been,” Jonah said months later. “To have that all the way up to my grandparents is really special.”

Minot, a 1st lieutenant and behavioral health officer with the Ohio Army National Guard, now faces an uneasy reality: Any day, he could be discharged because of his gender.

President Donald Trump announced in July his intention to block trans people from serving. Trump's plan would reinstate the ban lifted by former President Barack Obama last year. Minot, 31, said it's tough knowing his service could soon reach its end.

“It's made me really appreciate every opportunity to put on the uniform,” said Minot, who was clear to note that his views on the subject do not represent any military or government agency. “Any time could be the last.”

Minot's grandfather, a Korean War veteran, was one of the reasons he joined. When Minot was growing up, his grandfather enthralled him with stories about the U.S. Air Force. After reaching adulthood, Minot — who until earlier this year identified as a lesbian — considered following in his footsteps but opted against service because of the military's now-repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

“I could have pretended I wasn't who I was,” he said, “but that's not the kind of person I am.”

Still, Minot was drawn to veterans. With a master's degree in social work, he started working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Columbus office.

He noticed trends among veterans — depression, post-traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts — and realized many of their issues had grown worse over time.

“I wanted to catch them early and stop them from ever growing worse,” he said.

He joined the National Guard so he could help active and reserve soldiers. He filled out the paperwork in 2015 and recalled checking a box confirming he wasn't transgender, which was true at the time.

He joined in April 2016. Two months later, Obama issued his order allowing trans people to serve.

Around that time, Minot began exploring his gender identity with the support of his wife, 25-year-old Gina. In January, he informed his ranking officer that he was transgender.

“My experience has been very positive, in part because I'm in a behavioral health unit,” he said. “Someone who's infantry might have a different experience.”

And that devastates Minot.

“One of the things that's great about the military is the culture of supporting each other,” he said. “I've been really sad to see soldiers who embody all the military's values, but won't extend their support to their transgender brothers and sisters.”

He said many arguments against trans people serving are born of misinformation.

“Everything they're saying about trans people are the same arguments people made about stopping women from serving,” Minot said.

He added that healthcare costs, which Trump cited as a reason for his plans to reinstate the ban, shouldn't be a concern.

“There are easier ways to pay medical costs than joining the military,” he said. “But even if that is the reason, so what? If someone joins for student loan forgiveness or TRICARE eligibility, we don't criticize them — and we shouldn't.”

Despite the national turmoil, Minot hopes his time in the military won't end any time soon.

“No one has a right to serve,” he said. “It is a privilege — but there's so much more I can do.”

He also said his gender shouldn't matter to the military.

“I love the word ‘soldier,'” he said, “because it doesn't have a gender.”