America: May 2015

2006-2015  Gay Military Signal

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Veterans Crisis Line
Helping ALL who served
by Denny Meyer
Veterans Affairs Officer
American Veterans for Equal Rights
Transgender American Veterans Association

Earlier this year I received a routine promotional e mail from the Veterans Crisis Line (VCL), reminding me as a veterans' advocate that VCL is the VA's front line of defense against veterans' suicide, PTSD based personal crises, and other emergencies that constantly confront our nations' 30 million+ veterans.  Knowing that well over one million of those living vets who served from WWII to the present, including me, are LGBT, I wondered how well prepared the Veterans Crisis Line is in serving us.

Its part of my job as Veterans Affairs Officer for the nation's two top LGBT veterans service organizations to ask questions.  I asked.  Is the Veterans Crisis Line trained, ready, and able to provide competent relevant counseling and help to America's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning veterans and service members in crises?  The VCL leadership team took the question very seriously.  A mid March teleconference was arranged, attended by the presidents of American Veterans For Equal Rights (AVER) and Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), and the top management of Veterans Crisis Line along with its leading experts, regional coordinators, and public relations people.  Hard questions were asked and discussed in detail.

The short answer is YES.  The Veterans Crisis Line is actively and effectively helping our LGBTQ vets who call desperately seeking help.  The discussion with AVER and TAVA leadership served to enhance that help by providing VCL local Suicide Prevention Coordinators with contact and referral information so that our vets could be put in touch with our local and national LGBT veterans' service organizations for support, mentoring, community, and pride.

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Joanne Carroll
MSGT, USAF, Ret.

by Denny Meyer

Joanne Carroll is a seventy four year old retired US Air Force Master Sergeant Trans Woman.  She calls herself lucky because she's in good health, has Tricare, Medicare, retirement benefits, and has reared seven children.  As you might imagine, her successful life is a story of determined perseverance.

Her parents were solid and deeply religious, and moved from Canada to Minnesota when she was a young child.  In Canada, her father had been a missionary traveling on horseback between lumber camps in British Columbia.  Beginning at age 4 or 5, she slowly and silently grew to become aware of herself, getting the first glimmering of understanding when she heard about Christine Jorgenson in the early 1950s.  Her early school friends were always girls.  Later, she learned how to hide and avoid being bullied for having a Canadian accent, being small and regarded as a sissy.  Then, in her teens, she began an era of what she called 'acting,' hanging out with hoods, with a ducktail hairdo, wearing boots, and smoking.  Think of Marlin Brando in the 1950s.

Surviving high school, shortly after the Korean War, she joined the Air Force, as a pragmatic Midwesterner seeking the security of the GI Bill.  As many of us who have reenlisted more than once know, one thing leads to another and before you realize it, you are in the midst of a military career.  According to MSGT Carroll, and my own experience, you get used to the security of a good job with regular advancement, nearly unlimited benefits, three meals a day, and the kind of respect that a senior NCO achieves through steady hard work.  Joanne Carroll earned all that over a 22 year career in the Air Force.

Hate along the Wabash

The stately Sycamores lining the banks of the Wabash must be bowing their branches in shame.  In late March, the Governor of Indiana signed a state law granting business' in that state the right to decline to serve anyone to whom they religiously object to doing business with.  It is blatantly clear that the target of law's allowance for discrimination is LGBT Americans.  And before the ink of his signature was dry, the whole thing blew up in his face with massive national and local protests.  It was and is all about gay rights.

Of course, the law does not actually mention LGBT people; doing that would be unconstitutionally singling out a class of citizens for discrimination.  This seemingly clever dodge was ignored in the uproar of outrage that ensued.  And so, the result of this new law is that anyone in Indiana with a real or imaginary 'religion' of any sort can decide to discriminate against 'anyone' or any group that they don't like and claim that their 'religion' gives them that right.  The problem with such badly written laws is encapsulated in the old caution: "Be careful what you wish for!"

The law actually allows discrimination against anyone including patriotic American veterans who have served our nation in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan who happen to be gay, or happen to be Black, or Hispanic, or Asian, or Catholic, or Jewish, etc.

You should now be beginning to notice a familiar historical smell to this law, or a stench.  It was exactly that kind of law that was enacted by the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s against Jews and other 'minority' citizens suddenly branded as less than human 'foreigners.'  The escalating 1930s laws of discrimination in Germany led to government permission to loot and burn synagogues and Jewish businesses, rape, robbery and murder, and ultimately to a national program of genocide.  It all started with a few 'minor' laws allowing 'religion tainted' permission to discriminate.

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