Badass Women: Transgender U.S. Army Captain Jennifer Peace Opens Up About Defending Her Country and Her Rights

Jennifer Peace
Photo: Drew Perine/AP

Badass Women spotlights women who not only have a voice but defy the irrelevant preconceptions of gender. (Not to mention, they are exceptionally cool.) Here, transgender U.S. Army Captain Jennifer Peace Opens Up About Defending Her Country.

Why she’s a badass: This U.S. Army company commander, 32, has served in the military for 13 years, completing tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. She currently oversees the training of about 70 soldiers in Seattle and is on the board of directors of SPART*A, a support and advocacy group for LGBT people who serve or have served in the military.

Why she enlisted: At 19, Peace says, she was working part-time at a local library and needed direction.

“After I signed up, I was sent to South Korea for a year, and when I came back, I was fortunate to work for a general who pushed me to become an officer,” she says. “Since then, I’ve served in every war of my generation.”

Peace at the U.S. Army’s National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., in 2016. Courtesy Jennifer Peace.

Why she's speaking out: President Donald Trump’s directive to ban transgender soldiers in the military leaves her family’s future uncertain.

“There is no correlation between being transgender and your performance in the military,” Peace says. “The idea that I could lose a job I’m passionate about because of something that has no impact on my ability to serve is really difficult to think about.”

Peace with Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in 2016. Courtesy Jennifer Peace.

Overcoming obstacles: Peace began quietly transitioning in 2014 and took a month off at the end of the year to have cosmetic surgery. She thought she had a few weeks to figure out how to address these changes back at work, but a colleague found her Facebook profile while she was away and shared it around the office. She says her peers were confused but supportive.

A few months later, a junior soldier nervously came up to her and said, “I’ve been wanting to talk to you. I’m trans too.” “As difficult as it was for me to be outed,” she says, “I felt like it was needed to support others.”

Peace at the MTV VMAs in 2017. Courtesy Jennifer Peace.

Greatest accomplishment: “My family,” says Peace without hesitation of her wife and three children. “We’ve been through a lot together. I can’t think of anything I’m more proud of than 13 years of marriage.”

What's next: Peace is up for a promotion to major, but she’s concerned that the looming possibility of a ban will hold her back.

Peace with her family in 2015. Courtesy Jennifer Peace.

“How do I know people looking at my packet aren’t going to say, ‘This person is the most qualified, but do we want to invest in them if they may not be allowed to serve in six months?’ ” Being discharged is a real possibility.

“I’ve been thinking about it every day since the announcement. This is my life. This is my career. Nothing else makes sense for me. I just can’t imagine not putting on a uniform.”

For more stories like this, pick up the November issue of InStyle, available on newsstands, on Amazon, and for digital download Oct. 13.

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