Paulo Batista wants to join the U.S. military. In his San Diego garage, converted into a gym, he can bench press 275 pounds and do 100 push-ups a day.
"There's a feeling about wearing that uniform, that's all I can say. There's a pride."
He downs protein drinks in a Captain America cup and studies for what's called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitute Battery, a test the Pentagon uses to measure potential in recruits.
But the 36-year-old is effectively banned from serving because he is transgender, a policy announced by the Trump Administration.
"I hate to use the word but I get 'ghosted' or roadblocked. But I have the golden platter. Everything that they need. Letters from surgeons and doctors. Everything that the checklist requires. Records. And, I'm just, I'm ready to just start showing up in person."
In 2017 the White House announced it was reversing an Obama Administration rule permitting trans service members in the armed forces, citing costs.
"The president's expressed concerns since this Obama policy came into effect. But he's also voiced that this is a very expensive and disruptive policy."
Batista doesn't buy that explanation.
"It's going to blow people's minds, but three months of hormones for me costs 40 dollars. That's not through insurance. All of my hormones come out of my pocket. Forty dollars."
The ban went into effect last year and is facing legal challenges in lower courts. Gay and trans rights advocates told Reuters that while most transgender personnel enlisted prior to 2019 were allowed to continue serving, new recruits are believed to have been kept out completely.
The Defense Department did not provide official comment and did not respond to a Reuters request for data on transgender recruits.
Batista's desire to serve is not just about patriotism but about his father.
"It's not just for me. It's my dad. If I can just get that uniform, and wear it proudly, and wear it, I'm also wearing my dad."
Batista still presented as female when he joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps in 2002, but dropped out to care for his sick father. Fred Batista died in 2007.
"That burning, again, that stubborness, that I want to do nothing more than to make the one man, my hero, prouder than me, from above... it makes me cry now because it's the one thing that I live for every day. It would be everything for me."