Airman 1st Class Sterling Crutcher, a munitions technician at Barksdale Air Force Base, says he is sharing his story in hopes of inspiring and educating others about transgenders. (Source: KSLA News 12)
Crutcher was processed into the Air Force as a woman before transitioning to a man. (Source: KSLA News 12)
BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) -
Sterling Crutcher decided in 2015 to follow his grandfather's footsteps.
"My grandfather really instilled a sense of character, strong character, a sense of country," Crutcher recalled. "He talked about his service in the Army all the time. Every time we went over there, we would hear stories.
"And a lot of them were the same," Crutcher laughed. "But they inspired me to want to serve, to want to do something greater than myself, to want to be a part of something."
Now the airman first class is a munitions technician at Barksdale Air Force Base.
He's also a voice for the transgender community, using his story to educate and inspire others.
There are an estimated 15,000 transgender U.S. service members.
That number soon could rise because the Trump administration has temporarily dropped its challenge, allowing those in the transgender community to enlist.
"I was processed as a female. A couple months after being in and out of basic and everything, I came out to my command and to my supervisors," Crutcher said,
"So we just kind of took from there, from the policy that had been released. And they did their best to understand it and help me along to begin my journey in the Air Force."
It's a decision Crutcher says he doesn't regret.
"At first, I thought it was going to be really hard. Coming out is a very scary thing because you never know where you're going to get support and where you're going to get backlash," he said.
"But coming out, I received a lot of support from my command, from friends, from peers. They've made it a lot easier, having that support and stuff," Crutcher continued.
"I found that I'm way happier than I used to be and I'm a lot more confident in myself. So it's been great."
In August, MTV invited Crutcher and five other transgender military members to walk the red carpet at the network's annual Video Music Awards show.
"It was so overwhelming at first, but in a good way," Crutcher recalled, "It was 'I'm really here, I'm really doing this.'
"And we are all about to really affect, hopefully, affect change in a major way because we are given this voice, our opportunity to share our stories and everything."
He remembers what it felt like.
"It felt really good. And it felt empowering. And it made me feel like I can make a difference and, hopefully, educate some people out there."
Crutcher said even through his transition, he has not lost sight of the mission. "I always put the mission first, regardless of what it is.
"We took an oath to protect the Constitution, to protect the people of the United States. So, for us, that is first. After that, we take it on our own time to continue our transitions to do what's needed for us."
Crutcher hopes the lifting of the ban on transgender service members will lead to a time of enlightenment.
"When people open their hearts and their minds and actually talk to someone instead of closing themselves off, I think it really helps with the education, and it helps with the awareness, and it helps with people learning to be compassionate toward other people's situations that they're in.
"And, hopefully, we are able to continue to serve."
To those in his shoes, he says:
"Remember that you always have support, no matter who it is.
"And even if you receive some negative reaction, remember you are still not alone. There's going to be negativity in the world, but you just have to remember that you are who you are.
"And you have to be honest with yourself. And being honest with yourself, you'll feel stronger, you'll feel brave, you'll feel better about yourself. Be brave in knowing there are other people out here with you doing the same thing."
The Trump administration has said it is not giving up its fight against allowing transgender people to serve.