Editors' note: Gina King comes from a family with a strong tradition of military service is a veteran of the US Navy. She identifies as intersexed and trans identified. Currently she works within the military industrial complex as a vital member of a strong, forward thinking company that has inclusive employment practices and is a global leader in its field.
I'm sure you remember when you were a young adult or knew of a young adult who had to ask themselves "Am I gay/lesbian/bi/trans?" Remember that? For some, it comes naturally and for some they have to ask or talk to someone to figure it out. It's part of everyone's life to ask and be asked "Do you like him/her?" and to talk about what is love, how do you say it, how? Unless, you're in the military and have to deal with DADT. Because if you're there, anyone you talk to may be your undoing. You are an inmate in an armed prison. You are Neo in the Matrix. You are utterly alone. You have no one to talk to about any of it.
To my knowledge, the first victim of DADT in 2009 was Aon. This is an approximation of our last chatroom conversation.
Aon: I don't know what to do
Gina: Did you make an appointment with medical to see a therapist? Honey, you need to talk to someone
Aon: I haven't been to work this week
Gina: ?,Why not? Are you on leave? Are you having serious issues? You need to talk to someone. Do you have someone to talk to? Would you like me to call you?
Aon: NO, NO! I want it to end
Gina: Wait, we can help.
Aon: I don't know what to do, I can't go on.
Gina: We're trying to help you.
Aon: I want it to end, I want it to end now.......I'm done.
Gina: Hello?...Hello?...is anyone there?....
And Aon's name floated in the chatroom window.
Those of us in the chatroom pooled our information. We tried to figure out where Aon was really located, their real name, their real military command. Every scrap we pooled led us to nothing.
Aon's ghost haunted us for hours until a service interruption erased that last vestige of Aon forever.
Often the need is immediate, but because of DADT they simply cannot bring themselves to tell us anything. We rarely know a real name or location. It's just a voice from the dark asking for help. 2009 started off early. Within the first week of the new year Aon showed up in a chatroom asking the usual questions on being transgender. How do you know? What's it like to live as a member of the opposite sex? Does surgery hurt? What do hormones do? Who can I talk to safely? Can I talk to someone outside the military system? They voiced all the fears of someone who's gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered in the military.
Why do I help? Because I'm intersexed, I was born IS and my entire life I've been confronted with gender issues and confusion. I had to deal with those issues and knew something was wrong the entire time I was growing up. I didn't stop being IS when I joined the military. In fact I didn't even know what "IS" meant when I joined but that's where I discovered I was IS.
The issues I dealt with ranged from minor to major. I always had to deal with harassment. I grew up dealing with it and delivered good sarcastic comebacks. But the major issues I dealt with were things like being discovered. Our doctor was knowledgeable enough about Intersex conditions in general but not specifics. At first he thought I had actually could have gotten myself pregnant. When you're a "guy" and a doctor puts you on prenatal vitamins because he seriously thinks you may have gotten yourself pregnant... well. You really need to talk to someone (especially when you've known your entire life that your in the wrong gender).
Unless your in the military. In that case... talking to anyone is grounds for immediate actions. This was the norm pre-DADT when everything was just policy. Gay, lesbian, and transgender citizens serving our nation were all thought to have had serious mental issues and were typically removed and sent to a special restriction facility to await discharge as unfit for service, always with a less than honorable discharge.
That was the official reaction. The unofficial stance reaction was assault. By that time, I already knew of a lot of people who had gone through that hell. I also knew of an intersexed person who had to deal with finding out about themselves with no one to talk to at the same time as the military's actions against them.
I was extremely lucky when it came to the when, where, and who when the doctor discovered my condition. The doctor was somewhat knowlegeable about intersexed issues and looked out for me. He let me decide whether or not to continue my service. He was also a gay man in a happy relationship with a fellow officer.
But all of that was before DADT.
President Clinton made a promise that every gay, lesbian and bisexual person I knew believed. He said that he would remove those discriminatory policies that barred service in the military to them. He was true to his word; those policies were removed from the hands of the military by Congress. Gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers could now serve, but DADT was the new law of silence. You could serve but only in absolute silence.
After DADT the conditions did improve slightly. President Clinton said that DADT was a comproimise but he would keep on trying. But neither promising or trying ended the witch hunts.
After DADT was passed, I was on watch at the quarter deck. I knew something big was going on upstairs. The shear number of people being called up to one captain's mast was enough to tip me off. That wasn't really unusual. My division officer grabbed my supervisor to go upstairs as a witness. When my supervisor ran out and then a few minutes later my division officer ran out... actually, not that unusual. No, none of what happened was really that unusual. It wasn't a weekly thing, more like once or twice a year we had drama, real drama.
Shortly after that, the commanding officer came down to the quarter deck and sat down next to me in the duty office and started asking me questions.
I'm not proud of everything I've done in this life. Because one of the things I've had to deal with my entire life is people who will look at me and think gay or trans or freak and will treat me like that no matter what I do or say.
Before DADT my life was difficult, afterwards it didn't really change that much. I think everyone at that command saw me as only gay. As a person with a job that requires serious clearances I was subject to polygraphs as routine. I only got two, both in that command. Both times I was asked pointed personal questions on my sexuality. I managed to pass those somehow (mea culpa: I'm asexual). After that I was approached by my chain of command to be a stalking horse, a judas goat.
No, I'm not proud of that at all or the fact that I accepted it.
The few friends that I had there were special to me. I didn't have any growing up, but I couldn't tell them why because of DADT. When they started talking to me about their issues and what did this or that mean, I couldn't because of DADT. We couldn't ask or tell, which meant we couldn't talk about it.
Then the day came and the Commanding Officer sat down to ask me questions. "Do you know..." "Did you discuss..." "Gay..." "Transgendered...." The conversation barely lasted a quarter hour. DADT is a law to be followed, at the time Commanding Officers were often thought of as above the law and next to God, if not above God. He asked a lot of questions, but it soon became apparent to him that my answers were "I don't know" to all of them. I didn't know because I didn't listen. I didn't listen because if I did, it was part of my job to report anyone. If I didn't report what was disclosed to me, I was subject to the UCMJ.
The CO didn't tell me that at the time that my division officer was at the hospital with my supervisor. He didn't tell me that my supervisor had attempted suicide or that the reason was during a mast against a gay and MTF Transgender couple he... she bolted thinking the mast was for herself. The CO didn't tell me that the total number of people who had been at mast and were discharged was around 30 service members who all self-identified as GLBT. (By the way, about a dozen of them pulled a Spartacus. You know, "I AM SPARTACUS!" They were not bisexual or lesbians, they were just tired of the bullshit way the GLBT's were being treated.)
When I got off watch my day had only just begun. There is only one way to describe the remainder of the day that followed. Shitty. I worked from 7am until 3 or 4am. I did the work of six all by myself. The next day, the entire squadron had to realign itself to barely function. It took months to recover.
A few weeks later, a young woman who had come to our command after the witch hunt went down. While we were holding on to her, trying to stop the bleeding, her roomate told us some of her story. Her girlfriend had broken her heart and the young lady we were holding on to was a cutter. This time, she had cut too deep, too long, and too often. Earlier she asked to talk to her roomate, just to talk to someone.
Do you see how much this goes on? I've described just a few incidents, a few. Almost every time there was an incident I heard the words "I need to talk to someone" and either because of DADT or the policy that came before I had to turn them away.
Turning them away has led to so much blood... on my hands. I am as gulty as anyone else that ever uttered the words "I was only following orders." I wasn't raised to mindlessly, blindly follow orders. But I did.
I'm not proud of it.
After that, I realized that DADT could never be a lawful order. It's not even a civil law. It's a concentration camp of silence. It directly contradict against the freedom of speech that every American has as a right to.
Naoi came in like most of them. Asking questions, seeking answers. We gave answers, advice. We stayed up with Naoi until the wee hours of the morning helping them as best we could. We did it for weeks on end, through Thanksgiving, through Christmas. Naoi and I share common themes in our childhood and adolescence. We have almost identical stories. I listened to them knowing how it would affect me. But you have to understand... we're military, we're trans, we're famly. I know I'm a survivor and so is Naoi.
Until the other day...
Naoi has cleaned their home, their vehicle, either given away or thrown away cared for items, the presence they left on the web that can be found has been erased as best they can. Go talk to anyone that has ever served in the military, ask them what that means.
For some trans people, they go through something called purging. I hope that it's just Naoi purging.
Gina: We're trying to help you. We've been trying everything. Is there anything we can do?
Naoi: No, I'm done
Gina: Hello?...Hello?...is anyone there?
DADT leads to tears. I'd know. I just can't seem to stop crying about it. I don't think I ever will.