The Trans Woman Who Is Taking on the Military

Decorated Army veteran Allyson Robinson has some major plans for the country’s only organization dedicated to serving LGBT people in uniform.

BY Sunnivie Brydum

January 25 2013 5:00 AM ET

When it comes to changing the policy barring transgender Americans from serving in the military openly, Robinson says that fight is very different from the one to repeal DADT. According to the Department of Defense regulations, transgender people are unfit to serve, based on military standards that categorize transgender identity or any gender-reassignment surgeries as indicative of a “personality disorder.”

“Repeal was a legislative fight, and the path to victory was very clear for all of our organizations that were working to that end,” says Robinson. “Transgender people are barred from service not by legislation but by a set of medical policies — readiness policies — some of which are held across the Department of Defense, others of which are controlled by specific services, and so the path to getting there is much more challenging.”

But that doesn’t mean Robinson thinks open service by transgender people is impossible. Robinson points to the 2013 renaming of “gender identity disorder” as “gender dysphoria” in the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, the book of record for psychiatric conditions, lessening the implication that being transgender is a mental illness.

“We have a tremendous opportunity over the coming months,” Robinson says. “I think that [DSM] revision will highlight, for the armed forces, just how out of date and out of touch their regulations are. I think we’ll be able to use that as some leverage to help make some change happen there.”

But Robinson is adamant that OutServe-SLDN is not a single-issue organization. Among her top priorities for the group, Robinson lists increasing support for LGBT veterans discharged under DADT, who are often saddled with discharge paperwork that lists their reason for severance as “homosexual admission” or, for those discharged for being transgender, “personality disorder” — an involuntary outing that can affect future employment opportunities and access to veterans’ services.

Robinson also happens to be legally married to a woman. Robinson, 42, met her wife of 18 years, Danyelle, when both were cadets at West Point, and they served together following their graduation. Today, the women have four children, and live in Montgomery Village, Md., just north of Washington, D.C.

Ever goal-oriented, when asked whether she feels a responsibility to live up to the historic nature of being the nation’s first transgender leader of a major LGBT organization, Robinson shifts the focus to the work at hand.

“It’s not hard to get picked to do something,” says Robinson. “It’s harder to do something. I feel as though we will have made some history when we … look back over the past several years and feel that we have accomplished many of our goals, that we really have brought about full LGBT equality for the U.S. military. That’s something that will be historic, and that’s really where my focus is.”

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