Editors' Note: Guest blogger Pam Daniels is a writer and activist, a member of Garden State Equality's Board of Directors, with 26 years experience in broadcast news and media including the staff of a former Governor.
In April of this year, Jenn will complete 29 years of service to her country with honor and distinction. To recap from my previous posts, Jenn began her transition by starting hormones 2 years ago thinking she'd retire from the service after 27 years but Uncle Sam needed her service in Afghanistan. Jenn continued to take her hormones for the entire tour, in fact, in December of 2010 when her prescription was running out, a military doctor in country provided Jenn with a renewal of her prescription! As evidenced by the Army's bestowal of a "Bronze Star" and promotion during her service in Afghanistan, the hormones had no impact and Jenn's ability to do her job.
Jennifer has some solid recommendations for the U.S. Department of Defense as our community presses for transgender-inclusive reforms. She says trans service members should be allowed to transition after "at least six years with a good service record."
Jenn believes that only "career-minded" service members should be allowed to transition if the military is going to pick up the tab for hormones and surgery, with "no retraining required." In other words, a transgender service member must be able to do the job they already have in order to be allowed to transition and stay in the military.
At issue now, however, is Jenn's promotion to Sergeant Major, something she's worked diligently toward achieving these past 29 years. The Army wants her to stay in another three years to complete training for this highest non-commissioned officer rank, which would, of course, mean putting off her transition to living full-time as Jennifer until those three years are up. Jenn says she'll probably retire this spring, which will likely cost her the promotion to Sergeant Major.
Jenn wants everyone to know she's not at all "bitter." She said, "I served the United States of America all my life, put myself in harm's way," and that she is "proud" of her service.
Jenn served in the 1st Persian Gulf War, Iraq War, and Afghanistan as well as duty at the Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp.
Rewinding back to August of 2011 when Jenn came out to her mom, Jenn says "it was tough at first" but within a few months, a whole new relationship blossomed. Jenn says her mom is "starting to realize it's a closer relationship as mother and daughter" now with Jennifer and added, "There's a deeper connection now!" Like her mom, Jenn loves to cook, and as someone who's sampled Jenn's culinary capabilities, I can attest that Jennifer is one hell of a good cook! Anyway, cooking, having lunches and dinners together led to shopping and talking, opening up to each other.
I didn't ask Jenn to share any of those conversations for this post, but she did tell me that her mom gave her some heirloom jewelry from Jenn's grandmother over the holidays ... I could hear the tears welling up in Jenn's voice when she told me about that.
If a mom can accept and love her transgender daughter 47 years after bringing Jenn into this world, why can't the United States Military stand with Jenn now after 29 years of honorable and distinguished service to her country?
img courtesy of Pam Daniels