Ortiz: Most of my close friends in the military were girls. I had like one straight friend, and I never told, well, I couldn't. We were really close, but when I got out I told him I was gay, but… I found him recently. We were emailing back and forth but I never told him I transitioned. My close girlfriends, they're still in there, one of them sent me pictures of the email and said "oh my god can you believe this is happening?" She messaged me recently and said, "we went through all that for nothing, you know?" I feel like a lot of people in the military don't have a problem with it. They know about me, and it did terrify them when I came out, they would come into my room and cut themselves out of my pictures at all the drag shows because they were so terrified they would get kicked out as well. It's just sad people have to live with that fear, they weren't doing anything wrong other than being my friend. I feel like everyone is equal and we shouldn't be drawing lines in the sand and putting people with jars and labels on them, we should just let people be them.
Billboard: Do you see a near future where this is overturned, and it goes back to a more accepting military?
Ortiz: I think so. I feel once this whole era passes, everything will go back to normal, but now it’s just a bunch of ruffling of feathers going on.
Russom: Yeah I definitely feel that's one of the sadder things about this particular tactic the administration is using, it's about distracting people from what's really going on, but it affects real people's lives. How we had young black and brown people serving life sentences for marijuana possession in the '80s, and now we start legalizing marijuana in a bunch of states. I'm sure this will pass, but two generations of people's lives were ruined. I know there's actual pushback to take it to court, which I think is great, but also to understand that is most meaningful on the way to challenge the systematic conditions that create these things. It's symptomatic of a system that thrives on exploiting people and turning them against each other. It also presents opportunities to say, yes, this is an important specific issue, but there's also the larger issue that it's built into the way the system works. It requires wider systemic change to create a world where things like this aren't continually happening.
Ortiz: I agree.
Russom: KC, can I ask you a question? Did you feel like it was a possibility for you socially to transition in the military? Did that feel possible?
Ortiz: For me? At that age I think I would have been terrified. I think it would have been nice. I think the people who lived in my dorm had a clue, they saw me in regular clothes and how I dressed, and I've always been flamboyant, even when I try to tone it down, my friends will be like, "No you need to change, you can't go out in that." For the most part the people in the dorm knew what was going on but as far as the sergeants and the people in charge, I went to work in a uniform and I'm introverted and don't talk a lot, so they didn't see my personality. I think I could have done it, it just would have been really frightening.
Russom: I can't imagine. I can't imagine. It sounds very frightening.