The MTV Video Music Awards is not merely a significant night for the music industry. It is often an interesting one for fashion, as well, with some of music and pop culture’s biggest names taking to the red carpet in oftentimes less traditional – and sometimes more daring – looks than some of the more esteemed awards shows, such as the Oscars or the Grammys.
But the stars that appeared to Sunday evening’s red (or better yet, blue) carpet in Los Angeles – such as Jared Leto in (gasp!) Gucci, host Katy Perry in a white Stephane Rolland couture gown (her first look of the evening), Nicki Minaj in a pink latex look, and Millie Bobby Brown in Rodarte, just to name a few – were undoubtedly overshadowed by the debut of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” video … and politics.
That is because Sunday night’s award show drew six rather out-of-the-ordinary (for an award show) attendees. They are not heartthrob singers a la Shawn Mendes, not buzzy young models (who may or may not have all dated Justin Bieber at one point), and not MTV-affiliated reality television show stars.
No, this year’s most noteworthy attendees were four active-duty transgender service members – Sterling James Crutcher, Logan Ireland, Jennifer Peace, and Akira Wyatt – who represent three branches of the U.S. armed forces: the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Also in attendance were two transgender veterans, former Navy Lt. Commander Brynn Tannehill and retired Army veteran Laila Ireland.
As noted by Glamour, the group, which has collectively served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Qatar, walked the evening’s blue carpet alongside Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, and August Getty, an LGBTQ philanthropist and fashion designer.
These individuals – some dressed in tees that read “Trans Military,” others, in official uniform – were on hand at the MTV Video Music Awards as MTV extended an invitation to all transgender members of the military in response to President Trump’s decision to ban new transgender recruits in the military. Specifically, the memo signed by Trump on Friday, directs the Department of Defense not to move forward with an Obama-era plan that would have allowed transgender individuals to be recruited into the armed forces, following through on his intentions announced a month earlier to ban transgender people from serving.
The presidential memorandum also bans the Department of Defense from using its resources to provide bans transition-related treatment for transgender individuals currently serving in the military.
Prior to Sunday evening’s show, a U.S. defense official told CNN that the network had, in fact, reached out to the military in an effort to recruit active transgender members to be guests at the Video Music Awards. MTV president Chris McCarthy also confirmed, saying earlier in the week: “Any patriot who is putting their own life at risk to fight for our freedom and stand for equality is a hero at MTV, and to young people everywhere.”
On the blue carpet, Captain Peace (picture above, third from right), who spoke on behalf of the group, said: “All we want to do is be treated like everyone else. If you are willing to serve our country and you are among the most qualified in the nation, you should be welcome in the armed forces just like everyone else.”
While Trump’s transgender-specific ban is not what we would expect from (any other) leader of the free world, such “progressiveness,” as GLAAD’s Sarah Kate Ellis put it, is what we can expect from the music television giant. “MTV has always been a leader dating back two decades with ‘The Real World’ when they had the first person with AIDS on a show. MTV has always been a leader and a responder,” Ellis told Variety. “MTV represents the youth today.”
Another progressive force: The American Civil Liberties Union (“ACLU”), which announced on Monday morning that it is suing President Trump over his decision to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The ACLU made the announcement on Twitter on Monday morning, writing, “BREAKING: We’re taking @realDonaldTrump to court to challenge the unconstitutional transgender military ban.”
The nearly 40-page complaint, which was filed on Monday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland by the ACLU’s Maryland Chapter on behalf of six military service members, is embedded with Trump’s tweets and claims the ban not only violates the Fifth Amendment but is invalid on its face.
According to the suit, “The Trump administration has provided no evidence that this announcement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly.”