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Taking One For The Team

Taking One For The Team


How we identify ourselves matters. When I came out as a male-to-female transsexual seven years ago, I began by embracing a transgender identity and identifying myself as a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. I remember in my first months of being out in LGBT community being so clueless to how some LGB people thought trans people don't belong in LGBT community.

Trans people have been working for LGBT community issues since there has been an LGBT community. Shannon Minter, for example, has worked tirelessly for marriage equality for years, and Prof. Jillian Todd Weiss has focused like a laser beam on passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act this past year. Still, some LGB people still believe trans people don't belong grouped together with them.

But I believe in the idea of the LGBT community. If just one subcommunity of our coalition of subcommunities finds an issue to be an important issue -- even if that particular issue doesn't directly affect my transgender sisters and brothers -- then that issue is my issue.

Repealing "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) won't change anything for trans servicemembers. Even if DADT were repealed tomorrow, transgender Americans still wouldn't be able to serve openly .

But, the good neighbor looks beyond him, her, or hirself, discerning those inner qualities that make all human beings human -- and therefore a family. Repealing DADT may not help my trans siblings, but it helps my brothers and sisters in the broader LGBT community.

So On April 20th, I joined with five of my fellow LGBT veterans, and handcuffed myself to the White House gates.

As was expected, I suffered more at the hands of law enforcement officials than others in our group because I have not as yet had genital reconstruction surgery. When I was under the authority of the U.S. Marshals at the Washington D.C. Courthouse, I was housed with men while dressed in my women's dress blue Navy Uniform. A National Park Service Police Officer referred to me an "impersonator"; a U.S. Marshal referred to me as an "it" and a "shim."

I'm a retired veteran as well -- I actively served for twenty years in the U.S. Navy. As someone whom the government considers to be receiving "lesser pay for lesser work," I'm still under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I still could be prosecuted in the military justice system for violating regulations regarding protesting in uniform.

But I took one for the team. I chose to engage in direct action towards the repeal of DADT this year, fully aware of the potential consequences for doing so. I chose to engage in personal sacrifice for others in the broader LGBT community in the exact kind of way I would hope that others in the LGBT community would sacrifice on behalf of me.

In the words of Cesar Chavez: "We are confident. We have ourselves. We know how to sacrifice. We know how to work. We know how to combat the forces that oppose us. But even more than that, we are true believers in the whole idea of justice. Justice is so much on our side, that that is going to see us through."

I chose to be one of six veterans who took direct action at the White House because it's an undeniable injustice that DADT continues when the President has promised us its repeal.

And I don't choose to fight for LGBT community issues because this is about me, I choose to fight for LGBT community issues because this is about us. We are a community.
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