America: September 2015

2006-2015  Gay Military Signal

Transgender Military Service
The Light at the End of
the Tunnel is Not an
Oncoming Train

by Sheri Swokowski
Colonel, USA, ret.

Just a month after Pentagon Pride, Secretary of Defense (Dr) Ashton Carter put words about Transgender military service into action.  In his July 13th DoD News Release, the Sec Def directed several historic actions.  First, he announced the formation of a Working Group to study, over the next six months, the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly.  He also provided standardization across the Service, and a measure of protection for those involved, when he elevated decision authority for all Service members diagnosed with gender dysphoria, or who identify themselves as Transgender, to DoD (Under Secretary) level.  Perhaps most significant was his statement that the Working Group will start from the assumption that transgender individuals can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness.  Secretary Carter indicated DoD has proven itself to be a learning organization and that “over the last 14 years of conflict, Transgender men and women in uniform have been there with us, even as they often had to serve in silence alongside their fellow comrades in arms.”

I suspect it’s not a coincidence the DoD announcement came less than three weeks after the President invited current and former Transgender military service members to attend the June 24th White House reception in celebration of LGBT Pride Month.  I was honored to represent the Army and was one of four Transgender members of SPART*A (Service members, Partners, and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All) to attend, wearing the uniform appropriate for our gender identity. Nine of 13 individuals at dinner later that evening had met the POTUS, the VPOTUS or the Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives. It was truly an honor to be in the company of such distinguished civil rights advocates.


Wishing on a Star


Rachael Booth

I knew I was different when I was 5 years old.  I knew I was a girl but my parents insisted on calling me a boy.  My mother taught me how to cook, clean, do the laundry, and everything any little girl would learn from her mother.  But when she stared to teach me how to knit, my father told her that she should not teach me any more “girls’ chores”.  So I knew I couldn’t talk to them about how I felt; I was certain they would get mad at me.  From then on through my young childhood I would sit it in a small clearing outside our house every evening in the summer waiting to see the first star of the night.  When I was sure it was the first star I closed my eyes and wished on that star to make me a girl.  Of course it never worked.  So I grew up as a boy, waiting for the “magic” that would turn me into the girl I knew I was.  Obviously that never happened so I grew up lonely and withdrawn, never being able to talk to anyone about how I felt because of the fear of being made fun of or worse, getting hurt.  I realized in my early teens that I was going to have to learn to live my life as society expected.  During my junior year in High School, a Navy Recruiter came to talk about enlisting.  The Vietnam War was going on and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to go to college.  Plus I had a strong desire to do my part for our country.  So I signed the papers that would put me in the Navy two weeks after I graduated high school.  I also thought that joining the Navy would help me find my niche in the world as a male.

 In boot camp I took the usual battery of aptitude tests and scored 100% on the Foreign Language Aptitude Test so they decided to make me a linguist.  My first duty station was the Defense Language Institute West Coast in Monterey, California where I learned Mandarin Chinese. I graduated highest in my class.

LGBT Vets Survey

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) researchers are studying how stigma and harassment experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) service members while in the military is associated with current individual and social health-related factors and health outcomes.  The study asks military Veterans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to complete a 15-20 minute anonymous survey about their military experiences and their current personal health and healthcare experiences.  Survey results will be used to better understand how negative experiences in the military may affect future health. Our ultimate goal is to provide clinically appropriate and culturally sensitive health care for LGBT Veterans. The survey is anonymous; no personal identifiers are collected.  Participants do not need to be enrolled in VA care to complete the survey.  Participants do not need to be “out” about their LGBT identity to complete the survey.  The study seeks a broad representation of LGBT military Veterans, especially people living in rural areas.

To take the survey, follow this link: VA Survey of LGBT Military Veterans and Healthcare Experiences


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