ONLY ON 4: First openly transgender soldier in Nevada National Guard shares his story
RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) —
Sergeant Sam Hunt is a soldier. He's a boyfriend, a son, and Northern Nevada native. Hunt is also the first openly transgender man in the Nevada National Guard.
"I was over in the Air Force for probably about 6-and-a-half years and really just wanted that challenge."
But long before Hunt enlisted in the military, he was a young athlete growing up in Reno. "I went to high school at McQueen. I was a three-sport athlete. I played soccer, basketball, and softball."
His love of sports led him to become a standout softball player at the University of Nevada. Then known as Sarah Hunt, he took the Pack to the NCAA softball tournament in 2008. Hunt also played soccer at Nevada.
"Athletics-- It kind of gave me a routine. It made me who I am. It was a huge part of my life."
While sports always came easy to Hunt, "growing up, I was just always accepted as one of the boys," dressing up on game days did not.
Hunt said, "I had to start dressing as a girl, or I tried to fit in that way anyways and it was super uncomfortable."
He joined the military after graduating from the University of Nevada in 2009, content to wear the baggy, gender-neutral uniform. It wasn't until six years later, though, that he started exploring options to feel more comfortable in his own skin.
While Sgt. Hunt was deployed in Kuwait, the Department of Defense lifted its transgender ban for service members.
Hunt said that's when he knew he could be open about his gender identity at work. "I can actually go through this and not be reprimanded by it."
In the fall of 2015, Hunt started transitioning. He began taking hormones and started the process to change his name and gender.
His next step: approaching the chain of command. "They were unbelievably accepting. They were like 'Yeah, of course. Anything else?' and it was done."
Sgt. Hunt is still waiting on final approval from the National Guard Bureau to officially be recognized as a male, but he said his fellow soldiers have never treated him otherwise.
"Anybody that I've told, any of my friends, the people I've worked with have been absolutely amazing."
While he's not serving his country, Sam Hunt works as a substance abuse, marriage, and family therapist intern. He said he's always felt a calling to help others.
"I love my job. I love helping people. It's been something that I think I've done my whole life."
He agreed to share his story with News 4-Fox 11 with that same purpose in mind.
"I wanted to be a role model. I wanted to be there for the people who maybe don't have that support, for the people who maybe aren't sure. To know that there are people that are supportive out there and that there is this journey that each individual person goes through and it's okay for what you're going through."
Sam said the military lifting its transgender ban has allowed him to feel comfortable doing something as simple as going to the bathroom at work.
The second phase of that policy is supposed to go into effect in just a few days on July 1. It will allow people who already identify as transgender to newly enlist in the military.
Just last week though, military chiefs asked the Secretary of Defense to delay the new policy by at least six months.
CLICK HERE to read more about Sgt. Sam Hunt's journey.