Category Archives: Military

November 2017 Trans Talk on KKFI

On this month’s Trans Talk Edition of the Tenth Voice we’re going to have a special interview with a woman who is part of living transgender history. You’ve heard all about the issue of transgender troops in the military, well our guest, Joanna Clark, is the grandmother of that issue. After a long career in the Navy she was ousted from the service in the 70’s and then enlisted in the Army as an openly transgender woman in 1976. She was discharged again and took on the military, suing and winning in court. She went on to fight for transgender rights in the 70’s and 80’s, being instrumental in the fight to change gender markers on birth certificates and drivers licenses in California. She then started and ran the AEGIS online bulletin board, which became the largest HIV/AIDS information database in the world, for which she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

We will have a new take on the transgender news of the month, and we will finish up the show with the community calendar update. I do hope you will be able to join me this Saturday, November 25th at 1:00 pm on 90.1 KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org, or via various apps on your phone.

December 2015 Trans Talk on 90.1 KKFI

KKFI

Hello everyone! On Trans Talk this month I am going to cover a very important subject for transgender rights – military service. We are very fortunate to have three transgender soldiers coming to join us in the studio, including one who is the highest-ranking active-duty transgender military officer I know of in the world. My three guests will be talking about their lives as a transgender person in the military, and we will all discuss current efforts to expand and legalize active-duty military service for transgender persons. Finally, we will discuss criticisms of these progressive efforts of inclusion in our armed forces.

I will also give a breakdown of some of the LGBT news this week, and I will finish up the show with the community calendar update. I do hope you will be able to join me this Saturday, December 26 at 1:00 pm on 90.1 KKFI, Kansas City Community Radio! You can also stream the program live on kkfi.org.

VERDICT: Marine Guilty in Brutal Murder of Filipino Transwoman

Jennifer_LaudeThe story plays out like a bad movie script, because we’ve unfortunately all heard it before:

  • Man meets woman and wants romantic and/or sexual relations with her.
  • Man discovers that woman is transgender.
  • Man decides to prove he’s a big, manly man and murders her in cold blood.
  • Man tries to escape justice by claiming “trans panic.”

It didn’t quite work for the “Man” in this case, as Marine Pfc. Joseph Pemberton was found guilty of homicide for strangling and drowning (in a toilet) transgender woman Jennifer Laude after they met in a hotel room for a presumed romantic encounter. While Laude’s family, loved ones, and friends did not receive the verdict they were hoping for (murder), nonetheless Pemberton was sentenced to 6 to 12 years in prison, and a fine of more than $130,000.

The case has also created a minor international incident, with the United States and the Philippines arguing over where Pemberton should serve his time, but really, that tempest in a teapot is hardly going to do anything to help the family of the murdered woman.

Source: USA Today

Transman U.S. Military Pilot Wears a Woman’s Uniform, But is Hopeful

Sergeant Shane Ortega, who serves at Wheeler Airfield in Hawaii, has lived openly as a transgendered man for five years but under current rules, must wear a female military uniform. A bodybuilder who is massively ripped, to use the scientific term, Ortega must wear the largest-sized women’s uniform available. Ortega is very fortunate, however, in that he has been able to keep his career, unlike the careers of thousands of transgender veterans which were prematurely ended by their need to live an authentic and fulfilling life as the gender they were meant to be.
Shane_Ortega

Ortega may have some hope, however, as just this Monday U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that Pentagon leaders are finalizing plans aimed at lifting the ban on transgender individuals in the U.S. military. Ash gave transgender military personnel hope when he stated, in part:

Today, I am issuing two directives to deal with this matter. First, DoD will create a working group to study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly. Led by (Acting) Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson, and composed of military and civilian personnel representing all the military services and the Joint Staff, this working group will report to Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work. At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified. Second, I am directing that decision authority in all administrative discharges for those diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identify themselves as transgender be elevated to Under Secretary Carson, who will make determinations on all potential separations.
(You can read the official Department of Defense Statement at this link.)

Ortega, commenting upon Secretary Carter’s announcement, stated that he is “…pumped up. At the same time I know this is a small step forward and there’s much more to do.”

Source: Transgender military pilot is forced to wear a woman’s uniform

Introducing the Transgender Newsbank

Martha_Gellhorn

The Transgender Newsbank is a collection of more than 400 newspaper and magazine articles from 1911-1994, organized by year and date. I have spent 3 months finding and formatting these articles for easy viewing, in addition to typing write-ups about them and linking to other topical pages. The Transgender Newsbank is the largest effort of its kind on the Internet that I can find which is freely available, and like all Transas City features is uncluttered by advertisements.

While a Transgender Newsbank may be unexciting to some, it will form the basis of an online historical library to help researchers, scholars, and anyone who is simply interested in the history of our people.

The Transgender Newsbank

Captain Hannah Winterbourne, Transgender Officer and Gentlewoman

Captain Hannah Winterbourne is no stranger to conflict. In addition to her service in Afghanistan, all her life she fought an even greater conflict within herself – that of her gender identity. Not only has her transition been wildly successful – thanks to the British Army having a good policy in place since 1999 – but she is now the transgender representative for the British Army, helping with education, welfare, and issues transgender soldiers may have.

Which of course all begs the question: why is the United States military completely unable to handle the issue of openly transgender soldiers? Why can the UK do it, and not us? The reason, dear readers, is almost certainly not due to a problem with our military, but more with our society. And transgender acceptance within our society is a battle which is still very much underway.

Hannah Winterbourne: Soldier who has become Army’s first transgender officer says “I was living an act” – Mirror Online.

Book Review: An Autobiography of Roberta Cowell

Cowell_Roberta_01Cowell, Roberta An Autobiography: Roberta Cowell’s Story New York: British Book Centre, 1954.

Roberta Cowell is notable for being one of the very first transsexual women in the public eye in the United Kingdom, and she is one of the very earliest to undergo male-to-female sex reassignment surgery in the world. As she predates the much more famous Christine Jorgensen on both counts, her story is an especially interesting one from the pre-Christine perspective.

Roberta was born Robert, the son of a surgeon in the British Territorial Army. Her mother was a housewife who was active in social work. Being a middle-class child, Roberta was very quickly sent off to preparatory schools, where she discovered an aptitude for both mathematics and boxing, also liking tennis and fencing (as I do).

An early bought with obesity likely started a series of body image problems, and Roberta from the earliest pages of the book focuses quite a bit on her belief that she was intersexed. She describes having female hips, a female fat distribution, small features, female hair patterning, etc. She focuses on this quite a bit in the very start of and the second half of the book, and maintained for all of her life that she was intersex (examination late in life proved that she actually was not, unless it was a subtle hormone irregularity).

An aptitude for mechanical things, especially automobiles, was evident very early on. She learned how to repair, build, and race automobiles, something she frequently did in the pre-WW2 years. This love of racing and machines led to a love of airplanes. She joined the R.A.F. as a student pilot in 1935, and later enlisted fully in 1940. She received her commission of Captain at 1941, and was sent to Iceland to head a repair shop. She eventually received a flying assignment and joins a fighter squadron. Although she did not see much action, she had several narrow escapes due to some abnormal flying accidents and incidents. A large amount of the book details both mundane and somewhat interesting items of the war preparations and training.

Cowell_Roberta_05
Cowell in World War II.

Roberta’s first real sexual experience came from the unsuccessful advance of a fellow male tennis player, which increased her horror of being thought a homosexual. She had a few girlfriends in short relationships. She married a woman engineer in 1941, but only had two weeks of marital bliss before she was sent to Iceland. She speaks very, very little of her wife – practically nothing is said on the courtship, and only a few sentences devoted to anything else regarding her.

The war adventures continue, and sometime after D-Day, she is shot down over German lines. Amazingly, she is taken to the same prison camp, in the same month, as my paternal grandfather! I got a little thrill over that, thinking that it was actually possible my grandfather had met Roberta Cowell. Her descriptions of Stalag Luft I match what my grandfather used to tell me. She is eventually liberated by the Russians and returns home to try starting up a small business, finding that the English post-war economic climate is anything but good. She also suffers from some mild post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 1948 she separated from her wife, despite having brought forth two daughters, and begain psychotherapy over a general depression and malaise. Here her story of psychoanalysis, Freudian style, lines up with that in so many other trans histories I’ve read. The entirety of Freudian psychoanalysis sounds, from the viewpoint of the patients, to be a colossal load of unproductive money-wasting rubbish, and it doesn’t help Roberta in this case either. But it does give rise to the start of her realization that, along with her feminine features, there is actually a woman inside of her.

A physician speculates on her intersexuality, and suddenly, when she can conceptualize her growing feelings of femininity in a medical context, she starts to feel better. At this point in the book, you can start to see the typical gender transition snowball rolling down the hill. She meets more and more physicians, all of whom are reportedly “in wonder” over her intersexuality. A female endocrinologist (surely a rarity in 1940’s England!) prescribes a hormone regimen for Roberta, and like many transwomen who write autobiographies, she claims remarkable and rapid transformation to all parts of her body. Skin, breast development, loss of muscle, everything happens on fast-forward somehow, even her beard vanishes completely, something which beggars belief. At this point she realizes she is only interested in men. Even her handwriting changes unconsciously. To hear her tell of it, you almost expect her penis to suddenly invert and for her to start having periods!

Cowell_Roberta_03
Roberta Cowell in the kitchen.

Two years of hormone treatments pass, with Roberta still not fully out as a female. In 1951, she claims that the doctors were convinced, without any surgical alteration, that she was female, and they even ordered that her birth certificate be altered. At this point a series of SRS operations is decided upon, to correct her “intersex” condition to give her a female-appearing body. She moves out with a platonic female friend, and starts appearing in public as a woman more and more. Her SRS goes without a hitch, although the book is vague on whether it was simply a labiaplasty, or if a vaginoplasty was performed. Facial feminization surgery (FFS) is next, and goes well for her (or so she reports). At this point, she claims that thanks to hormones, she gained 5 inches in her bust, 2 inches on her hips, lost 5 inches around her waist – all of this is possible – but amazingly, lost 1.5 inches in height!

She then enters a world of learning about cosmetics, hair styling, clothing, and cooking (which she especially enjoys). She reports having men trying to pick up on her, in an awkward 1950’s English style, and about a first date with a man. One scene which was funny was when her date’s starter was stuck, and she knew how to fix it, but didn’t want to let on that she knew more than a mere woman should – so she “sat by demurely while telephoned the A.A. and at length got help.” In fact, she says she had to adopt the quote from Martin Luther, “no gown worse becomes a woman than learning,” and continually had to play dumb to let men take care of her. In fact, Cowell evinces a somewhat patronizing disdain towards her fellow women which is not really endearing.

She meets her mother and father as Roberta, and the introductions are rocky, but they eventually get along well. At this point in the book Cowell segues into a discussion of transsexuality and other famous transsexuals, such as Lili Elbe and Christine Jorgensen. She then talks of transvestites and her experiences with them, and moves on to discussing genetics and intersexuality – much of it relevant still at a basic level. Some of her suppositions about hormone effects are a bit naïve, but were not uncommonly adopted by physicians of her time.
Cowell_Roberta_04
Roberta with her father.

She returns to the story and relates an account of her first trip abroad as a woman on vacation, and how it led to a wonderful date with a charming man in Paris. She describes it with a Wodehouse quote: “It’s like eating strawberries and cream in a new dress by moonlight on a summer night, while somebody plays violin far away in the distance.” Whereas my first trip abroad as a woman was to inspect a coal power plant in Yorkshire…

Cowell_Roberta_07
Roberta Cowell at the Louvre in Paris, viewing the Venus de Milo.

She writes a little of how her feminine emotions continued to evolve, including gaining the ability to cry refreshingly, and the book finishes with one nice quote: “The past is forgotten, the future doesn’t matter, and the glowingly happy present is even better than I had hoped. I am myself.”

Roberta Cowell was a pioneer, but she is not an icon for the trans community to admire. Later in life she made a point of claiming she was XX, despite having sired two children, fudged a bit of her history and war record, and most critically, made some ugly statements about transsexuals, calling them “freaks” because they weren’t “intersexed” like she claimed to be. This feeling does not come through in her autobiography, as it ends too soon, so the book stands alone as a decent read and an interesting insight into the pre-Jorgensen transgender world.

Chelsea Manning Could Get Transfer to Civilian Prison

In what I feel is somewhat surprising news, it appears that the Pentagon may be negotiating to transfer Chelsea Manning to a civilian prison in order to allow her to receive hormone therapy and other transgender consideration and treatment.

Manning is a very controversial figure even in my community – many transgender people I know will proclaim in public that they support her, but in private they will do a facepalm and exclaim “we really don’t need this kind of publicity.” Personally, I admit to being torn. Obviously she should have treatment, but I also very much wish she would sort of vanish from the news so the word “transgender” would stop being associated with “leaker,” “traitor,” or “criminal.”

Transgender Leaker Chelsea Manning Could Get Transfer to Civilian Prison – ABC News.

Defense Secretary Hagel ‘Open’ to Transgender People Serving in Military

Some further encouraging news for those in the transgender community who wish to serve their country in the nation’s armed forces. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says he is open to reviewing the ban on transgender service. More explicitly, he says:

“The issue of transgender is a bit more complicated because it has a medical component to it. These issues require medical attention. Austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don’t always provide that kind of opportunity … I do think it continually should be reviewed. I’m open to that, by the way. I’m open to those assessments because, again, I go back to the bottom line. Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it. This is an area that we’ve not defined enough.

If he’s going to do something, he had best do it in the next 2 years. There is at least an even chance that the transgender-friendly Obama Administration will be instead replaced with a transgender-hostile Republican Administration, so getting as much passed and as much set in precedent as possible before such a thing may happen is critical.

Hagel ‘Open’ to Transgender People Serving in Military – Washington Wire – WSJ.

UPDATE: Social Security Administration Officially Updates Transgender Spouse Policy

I originally reported on January 31 of the case of Robina Asti, who was fighting to receive benefits from her deceased husband’s Social Security, but was denied because Social Security didn’t recognize her marriage. I also posted an update on February 25 where she had received her first benefits payment, although no official announcement had been made by the Social Security Administration.

Well it’s official now, and the Social Security Administration has issued updated guidelines regarding the eligibility of transgender individuals for survivor’s benefits. HOWEVER, residents of Kansas should take note of the following:

There are still seven states where the SSA will conduct additional legal review: Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. This is due to a belief by the SSA that state marriage laws regarding transgender individuals are unclear, making the existing case-by-case review process necessary.

I assume that this is due to the confusion over the Kansas Supreme Court decision In re Estate of Gardiner, 42 P.3d 120 (Kan. 2002), which can best be summarized as “transsexuals can NEVER change their gender with respect to marriage. Original equipment is all that matters.”

As promised before (and I kept my promise), I’ll keep on this to see if there are new developments regarding Kansas and the other states listed above.

Social Security Administration Updates Transgender Policy | Advocate.com.

Study Urges U.S. Military to Reconsider Ban on Transgender Personnel

Transgender_Seal

This study, conducted by the Palm Center, part of San Francisco State University, find little to be concerned about and much which could be improved if the ban on transgender military personnel was lifted. The study will likely take some serious heat from accusations of bias, however, because the person who funded it was Jennifer Pritzker, a billionaire transwoman.

One vocal critic of the report has this to say:

Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly, a woman who had previously argued that the human rights violations at Abu Ghraib happened as a result of women being allowed in the military, and was one of the loudest opponents of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, voiced opposition to Palm Center’s report.

“This is putting an extra burden on men and women in the military that they certainly don’t need and they don’t deserve,” Donnelly told the Associated Press. Donnelly also suggested that allowing transgender servicemembers would lead to an increase in sexual assault.

Of course transgender persons already are serving in the military, they’re just doing it in stealth…and yet, where is all that sexual assault? And how come other countries can somehow manager it, such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, and the United Kingdom?

Study Urges U.S. Military to Reconsider Ban on Transgender Personnel | Advocate.com.

Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor’s Courageous Journey to Contentment

CateMcGregor

I’ve written about Lieutenant Colonel McGregor a couple of times before. This page was highlighted by my friend Devin and I felt it was really worth sharing here as well. It contains a nice interview from the ABC, and several short video clips which are worth watching, about the highest-ranking openly-serving transgender person in the world.

What is the most positive thing about this story, though, is the way her friends and fellow officers, including her superiors, rallied in her cause. It’s beyond touching, it’s inspiring.

Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor’s courageous journey to contentment – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

UPDATE: 92-Year-Old Trans Widow Wins Social Security Battle

I reported on January 31 of the case of Robina Asti, who was fighting to receive benefits from her deceased husband’s Social Security, but was denied because Social Security didn’t recognize her marriage. Well it didn’t take too long, mercifully, for action to happen. My friend Debi pointed me to this update where it now appears Mrs. Asti is going to be receiving the benefits she deserves. Good job!

92-Year-Old Trans Widow Wins Social Security Battle | Advocate.com.

NY Times: The Courage of Transgender Soldiers, Plus Una Rants

CateMcGregorLieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor – a real heroine.

There’s really no sugar-coating it – the treatment of our transgender fighting men and women is an utter disgrace…and yet, here we are. In this article there is one section which really should be called out for reading.

This isn’t the case in other countries. At least 12 now officially allow transgender individuals to serve openly in their defense forces. Britain has allowed transgender people to serve openly since 1999, and Australia since 2010.

The flags of these countries had hung above Ryan’s control station in Afghanistan. “I wear an American uniform and I represent a country supposedly defined by liberty and equality,” he told me. But “my allies are welcome to serve in a way that has most certainly just cost me my livelihood. If these countries’ soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines can serve openly and authentically as transgender women and men, why can’t I?”

Understanding the hatred of homophobic and transphobic red-blooded Americans on a general level doesn’t require much of a stretch. The average American is somewhat of a xenophobic ignoramus who fears anything which might disturb them in their gated subdivisions of self-imposed apartheid. Their dreams are simple ones – football games, mowing the lawn, raising the kids, and alcohol. They sulk and fume and titter like Gladys Kravitz because Mr. Green doesn’t mow his lawn on the same day as they do, and Ms. Violet parks her car in clear violation of the HOA-mandated method.

Suburban SprawlUniformity is bliss…

Their lives are simple and dull, and at some point while the commercials are running they grasp for meaning in life, because theirs has none. This has them turn to authoritarian religions and political groups, where the same lockstep narrow-minded conformity is the rule of law. So they gleefully adopt the misreadings of books which were originally largely filled with love and acceptance, to develop a hysterical homophobia and a societal uncanny valley which is both deep and wide.

Ironically, these folks also tend to be the ones pounding the drum for war, safe in their jobs and homes and living a life of luxury not conceptualized by any society before ours. It’s an extension of their xenophobia – “kill those towelheads!” they think, as they put 30 gallons of gasoline from the Middle East into their Ford F-350 Crew Cab “commuter car.” All the while acting like chickenhawks – “get our troops over there so we can get more cheap gas! I’m a big-assed American and I need a big assed car! Jesus wants this!”

fillingupI don’t want no gay gasoline…or gasoline that thinks it’s diesel…

And yet these same people have the unmitigated gall to mock, deride, demean, and even assault our brave transgender sisters and brothers who step forward to volunteer to serve in the military and put their lives on the line? And they have the audacity to pronounce like Solomon, while balancing a bowl of nachos on their gut, “whudahell, we gonna have a bunch of Corporal Klingers in the Army? That ain’t right.”

No, my idiotic imaginary hobgoblin, what “ain’t right” is the disrespect shown towards my sisters and brothers who are serving or who want to serve. Pretty please, with sugar on it – let them do their freaking jobs.

Someone I know often says “the world isn’t fair, it’s round” to which I answered once “no, it’s an oblate spheroid. The difference is we as a people can make the world fair. We cannot make it round.”

The Courage of Transgender Soldiers – NYTimes.com.

Haters, this is who you hurt – a 92-year-old transgender widow fights for survivor benefits.

Anyone out there who comes across this column and doesn’t like transgender persons, thinks we’re weird, icky, threatening, destroying the fabric of the nation – or worse?

This is who you hurt.

Robina Asti, a 92-year-old transgender woman who lost her husband, companion, and love, is being denied survivor benefits by the Social Security Administration. Her marriage was invalidated, and thus this great nation of ours is doing the “right thing” by denying her $500 extra in benefits. Wait, what?

Flying solo: 92-year-old transgender widow fights for survivor benefits – LGBTQ Nation.