Guest Blogger

A Tribute to a Trans Warrior in Afghanistan, My Dear Friend Jenn

Filed By Guest Blogger | December 26, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Afghanistan, military, movement, rights, transgender

Editors' note: Pam Daniels is a writer and activist with 23 years experience in broadcast news and media including the staff of a former Governor.

pam-daniels.pngThose of us in the LGBT community have much to celebrate this holiday season. Ted Olsen and David Boies win federal court recognition of our birthright to marry as we choose. LCR wins federal court recognition for lesbians and gays to serve openly in our military then our House and Senate pass repeal of DADT that was signed by our president. Gender congruent lesbian women and gender congruent gay men have much to feel wonderful about this Chanukah, Christmas and New Years Day. All over these United States many glasses of champagne will "ching, ching" while toasting a job well done and job well done it is!

I'm an atheist raised Roman Catholic who still tears up every time I watch A Christmas Carol (and I make time to watch the old Reginald Owen and newer Patrick Stewart versions), but I'm also a total sucker for Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. I'm a spiritual atheist who tries hard every day to live by the Golden Rule.

My heart is heavy right now even though I can see the brilliant smiles on lesbian and gay faces, feel the warmth in their hearts for the extraordinary progress made in 2010. My heart is heavy because I know a lovely, kind, courteous and patriotic trans-woman serving in Afghanistan right now. Jenn saw combat in the first Persian Gulf War and three deployments to Iraq before finally coming to grips with her true self and deciding to transition in 2010.

But something happened. Her country called.

Her country extended her service for another year and sent her to Afghanistan. I asked Jenn this past summer before she reported for duty, "Can't you get some kind of medical reason to retire?" Jenn said, "No honey I can't, and besides I want to leave on a high note. I'm good at what I do and I enjoy doing it!" I cried for days after that phone conversation.

Oh, Jenn and I are not lovers, just dear transgender friends who found each other and support each other's respective struggle to finally live as our true selves, women. That one sentence doesn't nearly do justice to our friendship and just as important our desire to help each other transition and live full time in our true gender roles, our true gender identities.

I have only one request of all readers. When your glasses of champagne (or whatever else you drink responsibly) "ching, ching" toasting the progress we've made this past 2010, please think of Jennifer and the tens of thousands of transgender people in our military who serve now and have served from the beginning of our great republic with honor and often distinction who've been left behind this past year.

There are millions more of us living in fear all over planet Earth. We owe the existence of our computers, smart phones and the Internet to a trans-woman engineer, but I want you to imagine the heating and air conditioning person (another friend of mine) or mechanic or doctor or lawyer, so many occupations, all of you know these people. We trans people are in your midst every single day, deeply closeted, all trans people who live in sheer terror that someone might find out they are transgender. Think and pledge when you raise your glasses to also stand with us!

I'm thinking of two more quotes, "Whatsoever you do for the least that you do unto me" and "Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses? Best we decrease the surplus population!"

We must pass Inclusive ENDA and repeal DOMA!

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An Update:

Jenn contacted me yesterday and told me 2 of her comrades were killed, 4 others wounded in combat operations near her. I won’t reveal her location or details for reasons obvious. As of now Jenn is safe but that can change any moment. Jenn has a link to this post so please let her know you care about her? I look forward to welcoming her home at the end of her deployment, she’s a true American Patriot and my hero.


BZ to Jenn. Tell her, wherever she's at, she's not alone. While the DoD and the various branches of the military reject Transgender service members, not everyone does. All to often those people get the jobs that the military NEED done, even if its by a civilian.

I've been helping as best I can over the past few years. This year, I'm at 14 and holding steady. Last year was 25. The year before 10 and 5 before that. Out of the 50+ I've had two who most likely suicided and I've had too many go to the warzone and just dissappear.

But, its getting better. This year I've seen active duty Transgender service members being treated far better than ever before. Full acess to therapy, being given carry letters, HRT letters and even HRT. Being formally passed to the VA system with no interuption of their treatment.

Really appreciated reading this, but confused why it ends with a call to action to pass inclusive ENDA and repeal DOMA. ENDA, I understand, but please explain how repealing DOMA will be good for trans persons. Thx.

Because once it doesn't matter what gender each partner is, transfolks won't get unduly harassed when they want to get married either, no matter who they're marrying. In short, anything that helps both genders PROBABLY (key word) helps transpeople too.

transbestfriend | December 27, 2010 2:42 AM

That's another way of saying, when we finally stop identifying people by their gender, and instead just treat everyone as a HUMAN BEING.

I hope I see views evolve to that degree within my lifetime...but I have my doubts. I think once the 'stigma' has been nullified (or at least, severely blunted), we might find many 'closeted' people wandering out of their closets, finally free to 'come to terms', without fear of repercussions.

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | December 31, 2010 1:41 AM

Zoe, thank you for that information ... perhaps we will be unable to pass pro-LGBT legislation in the next 2 years, but now knowing what we have to change administratively... we can certainly try!

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | December 31, 2010 1:49 AM

Becky is right.. Repeal of DOMA will benefit transpeople who wish to marry. However an Inclusive ENDA is about jobs and considering the obscenely high rate of unemployment and underemployment among Transgender Americans, that legislation will have the greatest positive impact and should be our #1 priority!

Jenn Hang in there! Be safe and come back! Thank you for serving!

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | December 26, 2010 11:39 PM

I was in DC for the DADT signing, it was emotional, exciting and bittersweet! I was so very happy for my friends, but frustrated and disappointed that ENDA, the trans inclusive legislation which was generally acknowledged as less controversial, did not move. DADT proponents were proactive, more organized and the management was much stronger ...

With Speaker Boehner and a Republican House, we cannot anticipate any LGBT legislation in the next 2 years, so we should focus on what we can do administratively.

So, after talking to Dan Choi, and now reading about Jenn, the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that DADT was only about LGB people, and that there was in fact no law that barred T people from openly serving... is that not correct?

So if that is true, what is the reason that transgender people cannot openly serve? What, therefore, is the problem and how to we address the problem to create a solution?

It's a purely administrative policy which bars transsexual and intersex Americans from serving in the U.S. military. This policy could have been repealed by President Obama or President Clinton at any time without any involvement by Congress, but has not thanks to the monomaniacal focus of LGb(t) advocacy organizations on gay rights ONLY.

I am glad to hear that there are Trans folks serving and my heart and blessings go to all our Trans warriors and may they show the way for others who want to serve but have been denied.

The reason Gay, Trans and Intersexed people are each individually barred from serving is in Army Regulation 40–501 "Standards of Medical Fitness"

It's based on the 1977 ICD-9 rather than the 1992 ICD-10. This is possibly because the ICD-9 was the last issue where homosexuality was treated as a "personality disorder" (code 302.0).

Homosexuality has its own section; but Intersex conditions and Transsexuality... well, I'll quote from section 3–35. Personality, psychosexual conditions, transsexual, gender identity, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, other paraphilias, or factitious disorders; disorders of impulse control not elsewhere classified (a):

A history of, or current manifestations of, personality disorders, disorders of impulse control not elsewhere classified, transvestism, voyeurism, other paraphilias, or factitious disorders, psychosexual conditions, transsexual, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex, hermaphroditism, pseudohermaphroditism, or pure gonadal dysgenesis or dysfunctional residuals from surgical correction of these conditions render an individual administratively unfit.

There's more, and the subsidiary regulations regarding the administrative discharge of gays, transsexuals and the Intersexed at TS, IS and the US Military

It's worth noting that all of the regulations regarding TS and IS people will have to be changed in order to repeal DADT anyway. It would be no great hardship to direct that the documents be changed a little more.

As for IS - exactly what military duties require the presence of a uterus, or two testes (one will not do) and a penis? The Spanish Army was faced with a similar issue not that long ago. A great deal of fun was poked at the Spaniards by many Americans, not realising that their Army had exactly the same bizarre requirements.

At a time when the US Army is granting wavers for gang-members, racists and others of questionable character because not enough recruits are coming in, I think these issues should be re-thought. Just as they were in Australia, where we too could no longer afford the luxury of wasting such precious human resources just because of irrational distaste.

Stonewall Girl Stonewall Girl | December 31, 2010 1:22 AM

Zoe, thank you for that information ... perhaps we will be unable to pass pro-LGBT legislation in the next 2 years, but now knowing what we have to change administratively... we can certainly try!

Pam, thank you for telling is about Jenn. I will pray for her and her safety, and the safety of all of our people in war zones. You send Jenn my love and tell her that the president of TAVA and the organization is waiting for her return. You gave Jenn more friends with this story and we will be waiting for her. Please, please, keep us informed of her progress.

I will Monica! FYI, Jenn has the link to this page and I know she will get to read all the comments from time to time. I'd like this page to be an open thread of encouragement to her during the remainder of her deployment so please share this link with as many people in our community as you can. I want Jenn to know how much support she has here in the States so she feels less isolated and also knows that many of us are thinking of her daily.

I have a small blog that is read by a few family and friends. I just wanted to let you know that I was so moved by this post that I linked to it this morning.

Semper Fi

Thank you Edie,

I want Jenn to know she has the support of many people she's never met so I'm hoping many bloggers throughout the United States and our NATO Allies will link back and let Jenn know how much we all care for her safety and future.

You're obviously a Marine so thank you for your service. I have many Gay and gender congruent hetero friends who are also Marines, some who are Vietnam veterans all of whom are very supportive of Jenn and all trans people who have and still serve in our military.

I'm told by my Marine friends that it's okay to return your salute so...

Semper Fi Edie