Documenting the courage of trans servicemembersTrans Progressive Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Commentary: Trans Progressive
I served in the U.S. Navy between 1980 and 2000, and am now a military retiree. At fourteen I figured out I was a transsexual, but I talked myself into believing I was just a crossdresser – so even though I knew I was trans when I entered the service, I didn’t identify myself then as a transsexual.
By 1996 – four years before I was eligible to retire from the Navy – I knew that I was more than a crossdresser, but I still wasn’t ready to identify myself as a transsexual. During the last two of those four years, between 1996 and 2000, I was sexually harassed by the combined efforts of a subordinate and my ship’s executive officer. I still have the documentation where the Navy, in an inquiry, found that I was the victim of sexual harassment by male servicemembers because I was presumed to be gay.
I knowingly sacrificed my trans identity for the entire 20-years I was in the military; I knowingly sacrificed my need to address my gender identity concerns for the last four years of my service. Sacrificing my identity was really an unsustainable pursuit, as my sexual harassment experience showed me, and I’m absolutely amazed I made it through 20-years of service to retire.
OutServe Magazine has recently documented a portion of the personal stories of active duty trans people in the January/February issue in an article entitled, The New DADT: The Military’s Ban on Transgender Service. The author of the article, Katie Miller, indicated OutServe had 44 trans people signed up for their chapters.
There is an effort in its infancy to have trans people be able to serve openly. With that in mind, LGBT organizations should perhaps consider engaging in similar tactics for the repeal of DADT toward open service for trans people, and a first step might be a collection of stories by trans veterans with an emphasis on stories of those who’ve been discharged, or nearly discharged, for being trans.
We have open service for LGB servicemembers now, although we don’t have an equality of benefits for LGB couples with at least one servicemember
The amount of resources that a project to document the stories of the courage of transgender veterans would require would likely seem to be relatively small and such a project could be an important first step toward open trans military service. I believe the time for a project like this has come.
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