Op-ed: What It's Like Being Trans In Military Academies

'There are two types of hiding: the kind that requires you to lurk in the dark spaces of the day, behind shadowy places ... and there is hiding in plain sight.'

BY Brynn Tannehill

December 16 2013 9:07 PM ET UPDATED: December 18 2013 11:57 PM ET

At left: trans former Navy SEAL Kristin Beck.

Allison, a transgender midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, class of 2015, writes:

I have seen very little hatred toward gays or lesbians from the other midshipmen. Most of them leave the gay and lesbian midshipmen alone or are good friends with them. Yes, there are still some times where someone makes a gay joke, but I don't recall a gay midshipman ever being the butt of the joke, and those jokes are usually discouraged or even reprimanded. This all might just be because of a fear of getting in trouble. With sexual harassment awareness being stressed so much, most people just try to avoid anything that could be taken as harassing gay or lesbian midshipmen. Take note, however, that this is my perspective; I am not out, and those who do not know about me do not suspect me or lump me into the LGBT community. So it might just be that I am oblivious, since I have not had to deal with that personally.

I have noticed, however, that there is still a transphobic attitude from many midshipmen. This is probably just a reflection of general society as a whole. With Kristin Beck coming out earlier this year, a few conversations were started that usually ended up with people considering her to be weird or unnatural. 

The other day, my roommate called me over to his desk, saying he had something funny to show me, and then played a video that was very offensive to transgender people. I, of course, had to laugh and say it was funny, but inside I cringed and struck my roommate off the list of who to come out to in the near future. Many midshipmen just do not realize that not only are transgender people humans with hopes, dreams, and feelings, but they could also be some of their best friends. If they could be made aware of this fact by allowing us to serve openly, more people would realize that things they thought were funny could be very offensive to a close friend.

Pretty much all gay or lesbian midshipmen can come out without backlash. The only reasons they may choose not to would be for family or religious issues. I feel that those who do choose to come out get plenty of support from their companies, classmates, and the academy. 

Being one of the few who still cannot come out makes it harder for me to get close to those who have come out as gay or lesbian. I sometimes get a sense of pride that I am part of an elite group of people who must keep our identities secret or risk compromising everything, but that doesn't always help make me feel better. The fact that I have to hide who I am to my friends taxes me, and the stress of keeping myself together daily has affected my job performance. Basically, being one of the few people that it is still all right to make jokes about, but who can't be myself, pretty much just sucks.

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