America: Spring 2015

2006-2015  Gay Military Signal

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Conquering the World
by Evan Young
MAJOR, US Army, Ret.
President, Transgender
American Veterans Association

Underneath my cover, I walk a straight line, returning salutes as I pass. A sergeant salutes and says, “Good morning, Sir.”

A warm glow flushes my cheeks, and I reply, “Good morning!” Closer to work a familiar face draws near and salutes; “Good morning, Ma’am.” A heavy feeling of discontent weighs on me, and I return the salute with the grudging reply, “Good morning.”

I am a transgender military officer. Outside of work, I live my life as a man. Once on post, I am female. My short hair and manly features present an androgynous and confusing appearance.

I grew up in Arkansas, and knew that many outsiders perceived women there as “barefoot and pregnant” rednecks. That stereotype drove me to move out of the state and join the Army. I wanted to be on an equal footing with men. I found new confidence along the way as my drive to exceed expectations helped me rise through the ranks. Yet, I always had the feeling of being a second class soldier because of my gender.

Males have confidence ingrained in them at an early age. Men are encouraged to stand up for themselves and speak their mind. When they don’t, they are often labeled effeminate or called derogatory terms such as faggot or princess. The “stereotypical male” role is enforced by men as well as women.

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Thank you
for serving

Warning, this commentary contains fowl grumpy veterans' language intended for adult eyes only.

Recently, an American veteran of combat in Afghanistan wrote an op-ed, in a major big city newspaper, about why he really doesn't want folks to upset him by saying, "thank you for serving."  OK, well, he's earned the right to be a disgruntled vet and say whatever the hell he wants, right?  He explains at great length 'why' the "thank you" thing annoys him so much.  He says that those who feel moved to thank him 'weren't there, they have no idea what it was like, they didn't pull the trigger, they weren't trapped and besieged in an isolated place far from home, nearly out of ammunition, with several of his friends dead or dying...  .'  'They didn't serve, nor did their children,' he noted, and he somehow gets the feeling that they are just trying to make themselves feel better about it, and - and, well, it just pisses him off.

I understand where he's coming from, but I don't agree with him.  Additionally, in passing, he noted that Vietnam vets got spit on for their service, rather than being thanked, and that 'at least they were getting an opinion,' which he sees as better than mindless thanks.  I think that a lot of Vietnam vets would aggressively differ with his opinion!  What the hell does he know about what went on forty years ago?!  Vietnam vets didn't come home looking for thanks; they weren't idiots; but they didn't appreciate being spit on and cursed at.

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