A Look At: Reverend Troy Perry

To say that there has been a great difference of opinion between the LGBTQ community and certain religious establishments within recent years would be a massive understatement. It’s no secret that Christianity, or at least various sects within Christianity, have campaigned against the supposed “sin” of homosexuality for a long time now, and despite more and more legislation taking hold that legalizes gay marriage in various parts of the country, there are still several instances which see the adverse treatment of those trying simply to tie the knot in holy matrimony, even expanding far beyond the threshold of the church itself. News headlines abound with discrimination against gay couples regarding housing, jobs and the obvious infringement of civil liberties. And for those of who feel that the LGBTQ community has no champion on the inside, I’d like to introduce to the Reverend Troy Perry.

Troy Perry was born July 27, 1940 in Florida and, unlike many people in life, had a pretty good hold on what he wanted to do at a relatively early age. By the time he was 13 years old, he had become enamored with the idea of becoming ordained and, two years later at the age of 15, found himself licensed as a Baptist minister. And while the story could have easily ended there, Rev. Perry found himself a rocky start to his adult life. Coming to terms with his own sexuality was nothing short of challenging. Following what he once likened to “youthful exploration” with other men, the estrangement of his family and the loss of his license as a Baptist minister quickly came after. By 1964, Perry had found himself without his family, without his vocation, and on the other side of the country before being drafted into the Army in 1965. He served two years in Germany before returning stateside.

A failed love affair and the incarceration of a close friend led to a failed attempt at suicide for Perry before he was inspired to found what would later become the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. A modest 12 people gathered in his living room for the first service in October of 1968. By 1971, the congregation had expanded to over 1,000 people that required them to move from a theater into their own building dedicated for sermons.

It was also around this time that Perry was inspired to activism. Seeing the arrest of his close friend and the reactions of others within the community (particularly mentioned in an interview was “the Blond Darling” Lee Glaze), Perry attributes this event to his loss of fear of the police. By March of 1969, he was dressing in full minister regalia to lay flowers for the deceased Howard Efland at the Dover Hotel where Efland had been brutalized to death by police. The very next year, Perry and two of his friends had organized the world’s first Gay Pride Parade in Los Angeles. By 1977, Perry had become such a highly influential figure within the gay community that he was invited to the White House to speak with President Jimmy Carter regarding issues surrounding the LGBTQ community.

Perry would be invited to return to the White House four more times: three times on behalf of President Bill Clinton and once more by President Barack Obama. During this time, he had organized and assisted in various demonstrations of gay rights, including the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights with Robin Tyler in 1979. During this time, Perry’s congregation within the UFMCC grew immensely as well, and the fellowship now plays host to over 44,000 people in 300 different congregations that span across 16 countries around the world.

Most recently, in an interview conducted by Richard Bence in 2017, Perry made comment regarding the upcoming Gay Pride Parade and its shift to “Resist” for the sake of attracting new attention and renewing the cause of the community.

“…our community needs to hear again that we are going to resist, like the early demonstrations here in LA. Black lives do matter. Hispanic lives matter, union groups matter, women, trans lives matter.”

Perry also affirmed that he would speak at the start of the parade with the Mayor of Los Angeles present. The parade itself wound up drawing tens of thousands into attendance.

Our Olympic Hero: Adam Rippon

It’s actually quite odd that the first time there’s an openly gay member of the United States of America’s Olympic Team in the year 2018. It’s been ten years since Massachusettes legalized gay marriage causing several other states to file suit and upheld by our Federal Government. LOGO the first network for LGBTQ+ community has been accessible since 2005 making the LGBTQ+ community visible and celebrated. And let’s be honest, we’ve always suspected that other male figure skaters were gay like Brian Boitano and Johnny Weir. Yet, this is the first year where an Olympic level athlete felt comfortable being open with their sexuality, and that athlete is male figure skater Adam Rippon.

Adam Rippon is a member of the figure skating team representing the United States of America at this year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Not only is he one of the first openly gay members of the Olympic Team in general (Gus Kenworthy, the skier, is the other), he is the only openly gay member to have an Olympic medal. Adam played an integral part in America’s Bronze Medal win in the Team Figure Skating Event earlier this week.

But this great accomplishment of being an openly gay Olympic Athlete did not go without controversy. The skater has criticized Vice President Mike Pence for his belief that homosexuals should attend gay conversion therapy saying  “I don’t think he has a real concept of reality”. Adam Rippon also stated,

“I spoke out because there are people out there whose lives have been affected by change that he’s tried to make,” Rippon said. “I spoke out for them because right now I have a voice, and I think it’s really important for me to use it.

This bold statement has caused some people to boycott his Olympic debut, whereas some who were not originally interested in figure skating would tune in to support him. Although Mike Pence tweeted Adam Rippon to show support for #TeamUSA and had his office try to arrange a meeting with the Olympic athlete, Adam also stated that he would not go to the White House for a post-Olympic event and refused to meet with the Vice President.

This situation only caused more controversy with an unprovoked tweet from Donald Trump Jr. who claimed that he’s never heard Mike Pence mention Adam Rippon’s name and that he should stop talking about the Vice President. Adam Rippon has not yet responded. But plenty of Twitter users retweeted the Vice President’s tweet directly to Adam and shake their head in disbelief.

With a campaign slogan of wanting to Make America Great Again, the best option would be to try to unify the country to support our Olympic Athletes who are representing our country to the rest of the world. But the Trump Administration can’t even get that right.

Adam Rippon is scheduled to skate in the Men’s Individual Figure Skating Competition tonight February 15th. You can watch the event on NBC’s primetime Olympic Coverage starting at 7pm.

 

LGBTQ & The Media

By the day, our world seems to grow smaller and smaller. Global communications technology has connected nearly every single human being on the planet, and media entertainment sources continue to thrive with what many would call rich diversity of film, music and television programming.

But not everyone would call it that.

A recent column on Variety.com has again brought to light the unfortunate and somewhat alarming truth about under-representation or even misrepresentation of certain groups in the world, specifically the politically-charged-particularly-as-of-recent-years LGBTQ community.

In fact, as of 2012, the representation of the LGBTQ community had been so poor on the silver screen that GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) brought about a standard for grading films to determine their representation and inclusion of the LGBTQ population: the Vito Russo Test, a measure included as part of the Studio Responsibility Index. In order for a film to pass the Vito Russo Test, the following must be true:

  • The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender.
  • The character cannot be defined or portrayed predominantly through their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • The character must matter to the story in that their removal would have a significant effect on plot progression. This means the character cannot be present for the sole purpose of color commentary or to set up a punchline.

According to a poll that included films as recent as 2016, the authentic and realistic representation of LGBTQ characters has been alarmingly low. Out of 125 major films released, only 23 of them contained any character that identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender – a staggering 18.4%. And of those 23 films that actually portrayed a character who identified within the LGBTQ community, only nine of those films actually passed the Vito Russo test – 39%. The real sad part was that this statistic was a “bounce back” year from the previous, which scored 36% of films passing the test, down from 55% the year before.

39% out of 18.4%. I’m not necessarily saying that every single film needs to have clear-cut gender- or sexuality-identifying characters. But, when the final tally of well-represented characters from the LGBTQ community in all major films across the entire year equates to 7.2%, there is most certainly a problem with representation.

Unfortunately, as Monica Trasandes wrote for Variety.com, the bottom line is money and “inclusion is good for the bottom line.” This is not to say that all platforms are failing in this regard. Trasandes points out examples such as “Orange is the New Black” and the ever-popular “Will and Grace,” which is recently seeing a revival on network television, and streaming platforms such as Netflix are putting in effort with more shows.

What is unfortunate is that, despite younger crowds being the target audience for most of these media entertainment outlets, their inclusion into this entertainment is often being put to the wayside. Trasandes notes that research from Harris Poll and GLAAD concluded that 20% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34 did not identify as heterosexual.

One fifth of everyone surveyed did not identify as heterosexual. And yet Hollywood cannot get even half of their films that portray a character within the LGBTQ community to represent them well. GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in 2016, “Leaving LGBT people out of the picture – or including them only as a punchline – keeps old prejudices alive and creates an unsafe environment, not only here in America, but around the world where most audiences see these depictions.”

If inclusion is good for the bottom line, then the major motion picture industry might want to get its act together rather quickly.

Who was Bayard Rustin?

During the 1960’s, America was undergoing drastic change and opposition when it came to the civil rights movement. Demonstrations were being made frequently, some peacefully and some not so peacefully. And everyone knows the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the man credited as the champion of the civil rights movement for African Americans. A name many people probably aren’t as familiar with, however, is that of one of King’s assistants and possibly the greatest influence on King’s nonviolent approaches to civil rights reform – Bayard Rustin.

Born on March 17, 1912, Rustin was an advocate for civil rights and protested segregation in the military and in civilian settings. He was also a supporter of rights for the LGBT community, though there were complications in publicly disclosing his own sexuality until later on in life, entering into the 1980’s. Rustin was well-known for writing poetry as well his strong convictions regarding desegregation and nonviolent protest, as well as his unfortunate knack for being forced to leave causes which he had supported. He had been a supporter and member of the Youth Communist League, subsequently asked to leave due to protesting desegregation within the armed forces. He participated in the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947, only later to find himself on a chain gang after already serving 3 years in prison due to refusing service in World War II as a conscientious objector. He was also forced to resign from the Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1953 due to an alleged sexual act with two white men in an automobile – this after having joined the FOR 12 years prior. All of these acts had put Rustin on the FBI watch list, compromising his ability to perform for various groups at the time.

Rustin was an outspoken believer in nonviolent protest, having attended a world pacifist conference being held in India in 1948. He was a supporter of Gandhi’s ideals and was determined to bring them back to America to implement them. He reached out and assisted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in an effort to expand his resumé to peaceful protests before Dr. King was forced to part with Rustin due to threats of spreading rumors that Dr. King and Rustin were gay lovers. While Dr. King suffered a hit to his credibility, Rustin appeared unphased and continued his efforts through other avenues.

Rustin ended up being recruited by A. Philip Randolph, who was attempting to organize a march on Washington in 1963. Reaching out to Dr. King again, Rustin helped form a coalition of several different civil rights reform groups for one massive march on Washington. And while he had to take a backseat due to his weight as a “liability” according to Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, the march was closer than ever to being underway. But Rustin and his credibility would be tested again, this time by Strom Thurmond who personally read from Rustin’s FBI file, which caused internal turmoil among the coalition heads that needed to be addressed.

In the end, the march on Washington was a rousing success, even if it came at great personal cost for Bayard Rustin. And Rustin’s credibility would only continue to decline from there, as many claim he had begun to neglect the causes he had once tried so fervently to champion: hesitating to decry the war in Vietnam, alienating himself from “proponents of black power” by associating closely with the Democratic party, and cautioning Dr. King against speaking out at Riverside Church. Despite this, Rustin remained active in the pursuit of civil rights (and economic) justice, and even expanded his efforts internationally to the likes of Israel, Central America and Africa.

In the 1980’s, only a handful of years before his death, Rustin came out publicly regarding his sexuality and urged others like him to do the same for the sake of civil rights aimed toward the LGBT community, as they had become the new standard for “judging the character of people in regard to human rights…” Rustin died in 1987, leaving behind a legacy of nonviolent protest and support for civil rights involving various and diverse social groups – and nearly all of it from behind the scenes.

Who was Audre Lorde

The decade of the 1960’s was a tumultuous period for many reasons, not the least of which being the struggle for civil rights among the LGBT, feminist, and African American communities. To speak from an historical standpoint, there were many champions who represented and fought for either one party or another, but a significantly lower number who attempted to fight for all three simultaneously.

Audre Lorde was born on February 18, 1934 to Caribbean immigrants in Harlem, NY. At an early age, she became exposed to poetry and used it as a communication tool in her everyday life. Beginning with reciting poetry to answer basic questions such as how she might be feeling on any given day, Lorde eventually began to write her own pieces in eighth grade – a talent which would carry her for years to come.

After graduating from high school, Lorde attended the National University of Mexico for a year in 1954. During this period, she is said to have affirmed herself as both a lesbian and a poet. She returned to New York to attend Hunter College, graduating in 1959, and furthered her education by attending Columbia University, eventually receiving a Master’s degree in library science in 1961. During these years, Lorde had asserted herself as a supporter of gay culture by being an active member in Greenwich Village while she continued on her literary path through persisting with her writing and working as a librarian in Mount Vernon.

As her career came to fruition, Lorde’s writing began to be published in many different outlets as well. Her poetry was featured in the likes of New Negro Poets, USA by Langston Hughes, as well as many foreign anthologies and black literary magazines around the country. Soon after, her works would be published as anthologies of their own, featuring works such as New York Head Shop and Museum, Coal, and The Black Unicorn. Much of her early work features themes of love, while her later work spoke with a very different voice and focused on issues involving race, gender, sexual orientation and other disparaging qualities in society. While often writing about the injustices of racism, Lorde would also occasionally poke into the dilemmas of sexism simultaneously, feeling no qualm or shame in targeting black men who were guilty of what she referred to as “male privilege.”

“As Black people, we cannot begin our dialogue by denying the oppressive nature of male privilege…and if Black males choose to assume that privilege, for whatever reason…then we cannot ignore Black male oppression. One oppression does not justify another.”

Lorde was also talented as a prose writer, publishing works such as “The Cancer Journals,” which intimately explores her diagnosis, treatment and recovery from breast cancer, “Zami: A New Spelling of My Name,” described as a narrative that deals with the evolution of her sexuality and self-awareness, and “Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches.” This work possibly had the greatest influence on her views of marginalized groups, effectively calling for unified feminist thought among white and African American women alike to think outside the “racist, patriarchal framework.”

Exemplified in many of her writings, Lorde was a proponent for spectrum-wide feminism, though she found herself on the outside of the ways of thought with many other famed feminists of her time. She had found that she had effectively segregated herself from conventional feminist thought by accusing white feminists of being unwittingly dependent upon the patriarchy through subtle yet divisive racism that she believed still separated the cause of white feminism from black feminism, insisting the differences were still as of yet unrecognized.

For the last couple of years of her life, Lorde was recognized as New York State Poet Laureate for her literary achievements. She eventually succumbed to liver cancer on November 17, 1992.

THE CONNECTION: RAINBOW FLAG AND GAY RIGHTS

The rainbow flag has been an iconic symbol for the gay-rights movement, and now the LGBTQ community, for going on four decaes now. And for all intents and purposes, it has always been part of the gay rights movement as an original work, though even the original maker of the flag may admit that it was a variation of another rainbow-like flag that was prominent in the 1960s Hippie movement.

But the rainbow flag as it has been known in the gay community has always been part of the movement and hasn’t varied much, except when certain colors of fabric were not available (or so it’s said).

While the rainbow flag has always been part of the gay-rights movement since its original use in the late 1970s, how did it become the predominant symbol of the movement?

It started with an openly gay artist in San Francisco named Gilbert Baker, and the San Francisco City Council  member, Harvey Milk, who was the first openly gay elected official and was a staunch gay-rights activist.

The story goes that Baker met Milk in 1974, while Milk was an influential gay-rights advocate in the Bay Area, and the two began a friendship. In 1977, as Milk was ascending in state and national prominence with his dabbing in local politics, Milk asked Baker to come up with a symbol of gay rights that could be included in the upcoming Gay Rights Parade that was going through the streets of San Francisco the following year.

Baker , in looking for inspiration, was aid to have been partially inspired by Judy Garland’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow” (Garland was reportedly one of the first gay heroines), and was partially inspired by a rainbow-themed flag of the Hippie movement of the 1960s, which featured five horizontal stripes representing the human races (red, white, brown, yellow, black).

From those two motivations, Baker came up with a rainbow flag with eight horizontal stripes to serve as the symbol for gay pride. Baker even gave all eight stripes specific meanings:

  • Bright pink: Sex
  • Red: Life
  • Orange: Healing
  • Yellow: Sunlight
  • Green: Nature
  • Turquoise: Magic or Art
  • Indigo: Serenity
  • Violet: Spirit

The rainbow flag gained widespread popularity following Milk’s assassination in 1978, but the flag went through a couple of modifications. As demand for the rainbow flag surged, the flag company which made the flags found very low supply of bright-pink fabric, so the company dropped the top stripe and sold a seven-striped rainbow flag.

Then in 1979, the flag was modified again, as the turquoise stripe was dropped, resulting in a six-stripe flag – mainly because the turquoise stripe was always obscured when the flags were hung from street lamps along Market Street in San Francisco.

The eight-striped flag celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2003, and a movement tried to establish the original flag as the symbol of the wider  LGBT community. However, the six-striped design has remained the choice of the general community, while the eight-stripe version is still used in some parts to represent gay pride and the gay and lesbian community specifically.

WHATIS WITH THE ‘QIA’ IN LBGTQIA?

There is nothing if not inclusivity in the LBGTQ world.

By now, many people understand the minority group that identified itself as the LGBT community. Of course many of us know the letters stand for Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender, which is a group that has fought hard for equal rights and protections under the law, regardless of whether their sexuality is a choice, their gender identity is a choice or whether it’s all or partially dictated by genetics and natural biology. Much in civil and human rights has been challenged, and many of those rights have been won, through the work of a unified LGBT community.

Sometimes, however, and especially more often recently, that familiar acronym has gradually expanded to express more of the community in a more comprehensive and accurate way – not forcing some people of a minority orientation to “choose” a “category” in which to fit. After all, there are some who don’t fit snugly into any of the four categories suggested by LGBT. The letter “Q” has been added recently, and in some circles you will see two additional letters, plus even a math symbol – as in LGBTQIA+.

Let us take a quick moment and answer the inevitable questions about these recent additional letters to the generally accepted acronym and understand what they mean and why they perhaps may be necessary for the sake of inclusion.

Q stands for either “queer” or “questioning.” “Queer” was a slur 40 and 50 years ago, and because of that heritage it can sstill be seen as an epithet in some circles within this community. However, “queer” is essentially a self-aplied label that only means what that individual accepts and wants it to mean for him or herself – but it is usually identifying a person calling him or herself “queer” as in being outside of normal either in gender, identity or orientation.

“Queer” tends to include all members of the LGBT community, while “questioning” usually applies to those who are “curious” about their orientation or exploring ggender identities – someone who is bi-curious, for example, would be considered “questioning.”

The I stands for “intersex,” which is a very interesting term. It is also controversial, in that there are some intersex people who would rather not be identified and are OK with being in the shadows. An intersex person is someone who has sexual organs, features, chromosomes, characteristics, etc., that are not easily placed into a binary, male or female category.

The A more generally stands for “asexual/aromantic” or less-frequently “ally.” An asexual or aromantic person is one who does not feel any sexual or romantic attraction to anyone, or has no sexual orientation or identity. An ally is simply a person who does not personally fit into any part of the community (so, usually a hetero person) but supports the community in its various efforts to gain acceptance and human-rights protections.

Sometimes, the “+” can include allies as well as any people who have orientation or identity that stil does not fit with any of the definitions included in the acronym.

What Is A Drag Queen?

People are judgmental, and we often strive to conform to a rather strict set of social standards that few can truly achieve with perfection. If you’re a man, you’re expected to stand up for yourself. You can be aggressive and violent, but only if you’re playing a contact sport. You grow up given trucks and dinosaurs to play with, but don’t even think about touching that barbie doll. If you’re a man, you’re not allowed to cry. You’re not allowed to cuddle with another man. And you’re certainly not allowed to dress up like a woman. Cross-dressing is most definitely frowned upon, but gay men have found a way to take it to the extreme. And that extreme is one of the greatest things in the world: the drag queen.

But what is a drag queen exactly?

Most drag queens are men. They dress up like women (like, really really well), and they exaggerate the feminine qualities of women (also really well). They might do this for fashion or they might do it for entertainment, it’s their personal choice. A drag show often consists of a performer telling jokes, singing, dancing, and lip-syncing. No matter what the reason, drag queens have become an important and major part of gay culture. It should be noted that while many drag queens are gay, and the drag queen is most definitely a strong gay symbol, not all those who perform as drag queens are gay. A drag “king” is a woman who dresses up as a man.

There are a number of myths that arise because of the nature of this phenomenon. Naturally, most of them arise from the mouths of perpetually dumb straight people.

One common myth is that drag queens have an intrinsic desire to be women. Sure, some drag queens are transgender, but then again some drag queens are straight. People dress up because it’s fun. It’s a different kind of fun to dress up like another person and experience life in a different way. But more than that, dressing up in drag is an art form. It doesn’t make those who choose to do it less masculine or less manly than anyone else. It just means they like participating in a different form of entertainment or art than a lot of the psychologically-conditioned people outside of the gay community could possibly understand.

There are different kinds of drag queens as well. Not all men shave, and not all drag queens shave either. This phenomenon is often called “bear” or “skag” drag. Because drag is an art form, it is up to the individual to decide how he or she wants to present the art!

Many people are unfamiliar with the concept of drag or what it really entails, but the best way to enlighten yourself is to befriend someone who does it, ask questions, and have fun!

What is a “Bear” in Gay Culture?

It seems like the “dude” side of gay culture always gets the most attention; women are excluded from all the fun. On the male side of the gay community, various physical types are categorized, each with its own distinct name. A twink, for example, is a younger guy with boyish good looks. One step below a bear is an otter. These are slightly hairy guys who might not be quite as big as their counterparts. What exactly is a “bear” in gay culture?

Bears are usually on the bigger side. They aren’t necessarily obese or overweight, but they bring some bulk to the table. They might not be muscular, but when you imagine a bear you imagine the picture of masculinity. They might not portray the same rugged disposition in person as they do when in a picture frame, and so a photograph of a bear might not do them justice. Before the term was popularized, it was used for any hairy gay man. The term has continued to evolve.

Bear Magazine brought the term into the mainstream, and gay culture has used it ever since. Even today, however, there is a lot of debate surrounding exactly what a bear is. The fact that so many other names (twink and otter included) have developed over the decades has led to confusion even within the gay community, as not everyone knows them all.

Within gay culture, there is a much more elaborate bear community. Because there are now so many different types of bears, some feel discriminated against. During some events, chubbier guys are excluded so that more muscular bears may participate. This causes a lot of criticism from both inside and outside of the gay community, as discrimination of those who don’t fit one person’s standards has become a lot more pervasive. Considering the common struggles of the gay community as a whole, it doesn’t seem to make sense that there is so much in-fighting and rampant discrimination within the community itself.

More controversy has developed because of the focus on physical features, but that same criticism surrounds the entire gay community and its subdivisions, as most all of them focus on the same type of similarities or differences.

Other subdivisions of the bear in gay culture include the cub, or a younger bear. The chub is more likely to be overweight or obese. A panda is an Asian bear. A polar bear is an older man who has experienced hair color loss. An ursula refers to a female bear. Although criticism of these divisions is common, popular culture continues to take note of this tiny detail of gay culture.

Transgendered Military History

During the summer of 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump sent out a tweet announcing his plan to reverse an Obama-era policy that allowed for transgender people to serve in the armed forces. The policy, which now would officially ban such people from serving, has not been handed down as an official guide of yet, but it does lead to some questions. First of all, before Obama’s order, there was not an explicit prohibition of transgenders, but they were not expressly allowed either.

But the idea of transgender in the military is actually not that old.

It wasn’t called “transgenderism” back then, but there is a history of women dressing as men in order to fight for their side. In fact, perhaps the most famous “transgender” was Joan of Arc in the 15th century, who was ultimately burned at the stake for heresies – one of which was dressing as a man to be in combat.

Some researchers at the National Archives reviewed military records and found evidence of women who had dressed as men and served in the military during the Civil War. There is evidence that about 250 women fought on either side of the conflict, with their reasons varying from ideology to a need for work.

It is believed that most of those who survived the war went back to daily life as women, while some remained playing the role of men for the rest of their lives. Two of the more prominent cross-dressing “transgender” women were Albert Cashier and Lyon Wakeman.

Cashier was born as Irish immigrant Jennie Hodgers, enlisting in the Army at age 18 and fighting in the Illinois Army Regiment. After serving in 40 combat actions during the Civil War, “he” continued to live as a man, not being exposed until being examined by doctors following a car wreck 45 years after the War ended. “He” even forfeited an Army pension by refusing to undergo a physical exam.

However, when “he” died, several men who served alongside spoke up and pressed the military to give this newly-discovered woman full military honors at death, and the request was granted.

Lyon Wakeman started life as Sarah Wakeman, and went to work as a “man” to get out of poverty before signing up with the Union Army in New York, a teenage girl passing as a 21-year-old man. She served until she was killed in the Red River Campaign, her body buried under a monument with the name Lyon Wakeman.

Currently, there are estimated to be more than 130,000 American military veterans who are transgender in some form, with about 15,000 serving in the military currently, according to a Dallas personal injury attorney.

As cross-dressers or transgenders have served with honor and distinction for most of the history of America, the debate will roll on whether “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” applies to transgender soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen and whether serving alongside them (such as Chelsea Manning, for example) will impact military readiness or morale.  Currently, the president does not seem inclined to let it play out. But is this a slap in the face for those who have heroically served previously?