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Special Project
From the 3rd Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

Transgender Military Service Members at the VMAs

Entered in LGBTQ+


Just days after President Trump directed the Pentagon to move forward with a proposal to ban transgender service members from openly serving in the U.S. Military, MTV, in an attempt to put a human face to the rhetoric around trans military service members, invited four active duty trans soldiers and one trans veteran to walk the red-carpet at the 2017 Video Music Awards (VMAs). On the day of the show, Air Force Airman First Class Sterling James Crutcher, Air Force Staff Sergeant Logan Ireland, Army Captain Jennifer Peace, Navy Corpsman Petty Officer 3rd Class Akira Wyatt, and Retired Army veteran Laila Ireland, walked the VMA red-carpet, speaking out against the discriminatory proposal live on MTV, and to dozens of press outlets.

Strategy and Execution

MTV partnered closely with GLAAD, the world's largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization and SPARTA, a LGBTQ service member and veterans group, to identify soldiers who would be willing to speak out against the proposed ban at the VMAs, MTV's biggest night of the year. MTV also worked in tandem with the Pentagon/Department of Defense to ensure that all of the proper approvals were obtained by each service member. Once in Los Angeles, MTV secured press interviews for the soldiers, ensured that TV time was allotted for them to speak out during the VMA pre-show, and that the service members had a chance to speak with dozens of press outlets lining the carpet.


During the initial planning process, MTV's plan to host the soldiers at the VMAs was leaked from the Department of Defense causing a press-frenzy. The news broke on CNN, and was quickly picked up by nearly every major media outlet in the country, including The New York Times, TIME, USA Today, and more.

During the red-carpet, Twitter featured the trans service members' attendance as an official Twitter Moment on its homepage and mobile app. The soldiers spoke out against the ban to dozens of high profile press outlets including MTV News, The Los Angeles Times, People Magazine, Entertainment Tonight, and more. Influential celebrities also took to Twitter to amplify the moment, including George Takei, Tegan and Sara, Billy Eichner, and Kyle Richards.

Most notably, just two days after the VMAs, the Pentagon and Department of Defense announced that they were pausing their decision on the transgender ban.


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