A transgender sailor who was honorably discharged from the Navy because of his gender identity is publicly speaking out for the first time.

In a story published Sunday in The Washington Post, Landon Wilson said he was given the option of keeping his Navy career or transitioning.

Wilson is described in the piece as a “rising star” in a highly technical field that involves intercepting and analyzing communications from foreign governments and extremists. Wilson estimates the Navy spent at least $500,000 training him for the job.

While serving in Afghanistan, Wilson, who began his transition while in the Navy, was confronted by his superior with questions about his gender.

“He presented me an official Navy record, and then a document from Afghanistan, and asked me to explain the discrepancy,” Wilson, 24, told the paper. “He looked at me and he said, 'So, what are you?' I remember there being a really awkward pause. And I'm not going to lie to the sergeant major. So, when I finally answered him, I looked him dead in the face and told him, 'I'm a male.'”

Despite repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” more than two years ago, transgender soldiers are not allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military.

Wilson, who was born female but who has long identified as male, began to transition in 2012 while serving in Hawaii: “I knew everything that was on the table, but at the same time it was completely worth it. It was like taking my first breath.”

After acknowledging that he was transgender, the Navy sent Wilson back to Hawaii, where he was informed that he could transition or serve. Wilson decided to take an honorable discharge.

“The military gave me the backbone to transition, to be who I am, because they look so fondly on honor and courage and all those things you have to have to be fully authentic,” he said. “I don't think I would have gotten to where I am today without that.”