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

From Brynn Tannehill (pictured at left), a Navy veteran and graduate of Annapolis who is also a transgender woman:

I know that academy leadership has no direct control over the medical policy that bars transgender people from service. But some of the people who are bearing the brunt of this policy are the academy's people, and leaders have a moral obligation to do everything in their power to take care of those under their command; they are charged with training a generation of leaders who do not lie and who maintain the highest ideals of personal honor.  

Yet the policy in place forces cadets and midshipmen to lie about who they are, just as DADT forced LGBQ service members to. It forces the friends, allies, and medical personnel surrounding transgender service members into ethical quandaries. It was unethical to put people in such no-win situations when we were talking about gay and lesbian cadets, and it is no more defensible when discussing transgender cadets and midshipmen.

Leaders at the academies possess the influence to quietly push for a better policy that doesn’t hurt their troops and force their people into ethically questionable situations. Sidestepping the issue by saying your hands are tied by regulations is only valid when one has no capacity to push for changes to those regulations.

When I was a midshipman, we were taught that taking care of your people is one of the hallmarks of an effective leader. So are being bold and doing the right thing, regardless of the personal cost or popularity.

As a plebe I had to learn inspirational historical quotes such as "I will find a way or make one" and read "A Message to Garcia." Both carried the moral that great leaders make things happen, regardless of circumstances.

I can only hope current academy leaders remember these values when it comes to the silent transgender cadets and midshipmen in their commands.

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