A United States military veteran and retired army sergeant is set to compete in her third Invictus Games, the Paralympic competitions for wounded veterans, but she will participate this time as a man.
Formerly Bethany Stewart, Aaron Stewart was discharged from the U.S. Army in January 2015 after suffering an injury while serving in Kuwait, and decided to participate in the Invictus games to help her mental and physical recovery. The games offer an opportunity for injured or wounded servicemen and women from around the world to compete in athletics. The 2017 games begin Saturday and last for one week.
Stewart competed in the Air Force Trials and Army Trials in 2014, as well as the Colorado Warrior Games and U.K. Invictus Games. She competed at the Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla. for a second time in 2016, and Canada’s 2017 Invictus Games will mark her third.
“I’m proud to be an American, and as part of being American it was my duty to serve,” Stewart said. She told the Star that she vehemently disagrees with Trump’s transgender military ban, saying that “because you identify as a male when you were born female … we can’t die for [our] country. My country says you’re not good enough for that. It’s insulting.”
“As long as you can perform your job, it’s nobody’s business,” she said.
Stewart participated in Utah’s warrior transition program after injuring her back while serving in Kuwait in 2010. She suffered anxiety and depression after her injury and tried to commit suicide in 2012, leaving her in a coma for several days. The experience left her looking for a way to subdue her distress, and the Invictus Games provided inspiration.
“The responsibility of the organizing committee is to ensure that all of the competitors, families and guests coming to Toronto feel included, respected and have the finest experience possible that will help them with their healing and recovery,” Michael Burns, CEO of the Toronto Games, told the Star. He also said that the number of transgender athletes competing in the games is unknown.
Stewart legally changed her gender last year, and is continuing to transition into a male. She self-administers testosterone and is saving money for surgery that will provide her with functioning male genitals, costing roughly $40,000.
She told the Star she is excited to compete in her first games as a man, but knows that the competition will be fierce now that she is up against males. “It will be completely different competition for me,” she said.
The games always draw large crowds, and this year’s games may see record numbers after Prince Harry arrived Friday to support the competitors.
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