I am relatively new to The American Legion and am pleased to be part of this organization. I served 35 years as an Infantry soldier, 13 as a civil servant, and 20 on active duty in support of the Wisconsin National Guard. I am also one of 164,000 transgender veterans. I sacrificed my authenticity until I retired as J1, WI NG in 2004. Three years later, I was fired from my lead instructor position at US Army Force Management School when I transitioned. I went on to serve as a Pentagon senior analyst and HR director for the Rocky Mtn. Region of U.S. Forest Service.
As a Ph.D. student, I rely on fact-based research. In 2012 the medical and scientific communities recognized being transgender as a medical condition that improves with treatment. Arguments concerning costs, deployability and cohesion are invalid. I recently saw a photo from a DFAC in AFG that showed four trans SMs together, including a special operations officer. Up to 15,500 trans SMs have been serving for 30 months, with “precisely zero” issues (CSA testimony-12Apr18). Today, we are deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea on surface ships and submarines. The president’s directive has been determined to be blatant discrimination by four federal district, and two appeals, courts. Preliminary injunctions are normally issued to prevent harm to individuals while the judiciary process plays out. The SCOTUS decision in mid-January to allow DoD to temporarily implement a revised ban harms every trans SM in uniform today.
Former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter understood that the most important thing to accomplish the mission is an individual’s performance and character. Both of those traits are irrelevant to an individual’s identity. Transgender servicemembers have been serving with honor and distinction alongside their cisgender counterparts since the MA Bay Colony Militia was formed in 1636.
While I must have done a few things well to earn a promotion to COL in a tightly controlled AGR program, I would have been a much better NCO and officer had I been allowed to transition while in uniform. I sacrificed my authenticity for five decades out of love and respect for family and the profession I loved. Transgender servicemembers today should not have to.
Bio: 35years of service, Ph.D. student, sr, out trans vet in U.S., two children, Oma to five grandkids.
COL Sheri A. Swokowski (ret.)