RADM Alan M. Steinman
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina, was honored to host RADM Alan M. Steinman, USPHS/USCG (Ret.) October 7 – 8. RADM Steinman is the most senior military officer to self-identify as gay after his retirement; he served on the Military Advisory Council for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, as an advisor for Servicemembers United and for Service Women’s Action Network. He is also a founding member of the Puget Sound Chapter of American Veterans for Equal Rights, the nation’s LGBT veterans’ service organization. He briefed President-elect Obama’s transition team on the issue of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell; and later advised senior members of the Pentagon’s Working Group on gays in the military. And ultimately, he attended the White House to attend the Presidential Signing Ceremony repealing the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law.
The Citadel, founded in 1842, is steeped in Southern history and military tradition. Our mission is to “educate and develop our students to become principled leaders in all walks of life by instilling the core values of The Citadel in a disciplined and intellectually challenging environment.” Our programs are organized around three Core Values: Honor, Duty and Respect. We were one of the first South Carolina public institutions of higher education to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in its Notice of Nondiscrimination.
The school began offering Safe Zone training in February, 2013. This training is part of a broader initiative designed to engage the campus community on issues of diversity and inclusion. The goal of Safe Zone training is to provide a safe environment on The Citadel campus for LGBT students, Faculty, and staff by establishing a network of allies who provide guidance, information and support. The training is offered by LGBT alumni and students to ensure that information is relevant to The Citadel’s unique context.
Admiral Steinman received a warm welcome to The Citadel. He met with members of our leadership administration and several interested groups on campus. His talk, entitled “Leadership, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and Sexual Minorities in the Military” was attended by Citadel cadets, graduate students, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrators. He related his personal experiences of serving in the Coast Guard, coming out after retirement and traveling throughout the country with other LGB servicemembers to advocate for the repeal of DADT. He also discussed current issues in the military with regard to transgender servicemembers. The highlight of his visit was meeting with The Citadel’s Cadet Gay-Straight Alliance.
Additionally, Admiral Steinman met with the Charleston Coast Guard sector. He addressed about 60 “Coasties” and joined CPT Tomasulo and his senior staff for lunch.
Admiral Steinman told these groups his story – one that is remarkable and demonstrates courage and conviction that influenced real change in the military. He discussed what it was like serving under DADT and the many ways that LGB servicemembers had to hide their true identities. After serving for 25 years in the closet, he took the bold step to come out and become a vocal activist for equal rights for LGB service members. He traveled the country on a “Call to Duty” tour with other LGB veterans who met directly with military personnel and veterans.
The Call to Duty tour had two primary goals. First, the group wanted to challenge people’s assumptions about who LGB service members and veterans are. The Call to Duty activists contradicted many stereotypes of how gay men and women looked and acted. These men and women were models of success in the military, who challenged assumptions that people had and opened the door for real dialogue.
The second goal, as Admiral Steinman explained in his talks, was to understand veterans’ and active military personnel’s views about gays serving openly. The Call to Duty group knew that there were data showing that the majority of active service members either knew or suspected that someone in their unit was LGB. The data also showed that the majority of service members did not care about their peers’ sexual orientation. LGB service members were viewed as competent and valuable members of military units. The Call to Duty conversations supported these findings.
RADM Steinman’s efforts on behalf of ongoing progress on diversity in the military continue as the military addresses issues for transgender service members. To that end, RADM Steinman co-authored a treatise on the medical standards used to ban transgender service members. Titled Report of the Transgender Military Service Commission, this paper was sent to the Pentagon for their consideration. (See: http://www.palmcenter.org/files/Transgender Military Service Report_0.pdf). He expressed optimism that policies will change to allow transgender service members to serve openly in all branches of the military.
Those of us at The Citadel who had the opportunity to hear RADM Steinman’s story appreciate his continued leadership, integrity and honor.