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Any parent would struggle to send their child off to war, of course. But there’s another layer to the Cooks’ fear. As one of about 15,500 transgender troops in the U.S. military, El faces extra dangers. He’s afraid to tell his new roommates that he’s trans, knowing they could harass him or even report him up the chain of command. His biggest fear is that he could be kicked out of the Army, but the smaller, daily grind gets to him, too, as he explains to a friend in another scene: “If you park and your tires are over the line, they’re gonna counsel you. If you show up any less than 15 minutes early, if you score any less than a 300 on a test — they can still find ways.” It’s exhausting, he says.

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