“Transgender, At War and In Love”

New York Times Op-Doc


This Emmy-nominated short documentary commissioned by The New York Times shares the challenges of a transgender military couple, who are banned from serving openly. Named as a Vimeo Staff Pick in 2015, this short film is the precursor to SideXSide’s first feature documentary, Transmilitary.


We started making this short film at a time when the conversation around transgender rights hadn’t yet touched Main street, America. A GLAAD 2015 study found that only 16 percent of Americans had knowingly met someone who is transgender. Serendipitously, Caitlyn Jenner, happened to come out publicly on the cover of Vanity Fair, just three days before this short film was published.

“Transgender, at War and in Love” debuted on the homepage of The New York Times, alongside the editorial board’s article. The piece helped to spark a chain of events that lead to the lifting of the ban. The same afternoon it was published, the US Air Force suspended its dismissal of transgender service members until further review of the policy. Within weeks Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced a working group to study the ban. Our two main subjects, Senior Airman Logan Ireland and Corporal Laila Villanueva, was invited to the White House to meet President Obama. The film became one of the most watched Op-Docs of all time.

HBO’s John Oliver Last Week Tonight featured the film in its segment on transgender rights.

On June 30, 2016 the ban was formally lifted. Just over a year later, President Trump tweeted out his desire to re-instate the ban.

Awards & Recognition

NEWS AND DOCUMENTARY EMMY – 2016 Outstanding Short Documentary Nominee
GLAAD MEDIA AWARDS – 2016 Nominee Outstanding Digital Journalism

OUTFEST – Official Selection


Additional Stills



Fiona Dawson


Jamie Coughlin, Gabriel Silverman, Fiona Dawson


Gabriel Silverman, Matt Rhodes, Jamie Coughlin, Fiona Dawson


Gabriel Silverman, Matt Rhodes, Rhys Harper, Jesse Ehrenfeld, Fiona Dawson, Barry Bowden

Original Music

Mark De Gli Antoni

Sound Recording

Chris Montefiore, Matt Rhodes, Gabriel Silverman

Series Producer & Curator

Jason Springarn-Koff

Coordinating Producer

Kathleen Lingo

Series Researcher

Lindsay Carouse