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?

Have You Heard About the HIV Epidemic of the 1990’s?

For folks who were born in the late 1980’s and afterwards, it might be difficult to conceive of a world without AIDS, safe sex and condoms being a regular part of the conversation. However, the HIV epidemic of the 1990’s is a big reason for that conversational freedom everyone in the country can experience today.

The epidemic started in big cities and spread to communities across the nation, including rural areas. Spread by intravenous drug users and folks engaged in unprotected sexual activities, it ran rampant before people even realized they were infected. At that point, condoms were used primarily for pregnancy protection, something the LGBT community did not need to worry about.

During the decade, countless men and women were assaulted and lost their lives to the disease, as case after case showed up during routine physicals and emergency room visits. The fun and partying of the previous years had been replaced by a more somber attitude as people lost their friends and loved ones to the outbreak. At that point in time, little was known about the virus and even less was known about how to treat and prevent it.

Safe sex became a topic of concern that extended well beyond whether or not your teenager got pregnant or got someone else pregnant. Parents, single folks and teens alike all understood that the situation had become far more serious. While getting other types of sexually transmitted diseases could create harm, most were easily treatable and concerns were overlooked in the heat of the moment.

However, the HIV epidemic showed that one night of fun could turn into a death sentence. The suffering that many of these patients went through extended to their families and the community at large. Outreach centers popped up to help victims, who were often ostracized by folks afraid of contracting the disease from them. It took years for researchers to set the public mind at ease that HIV could not be transmitted through hugs and sitting near someone.

Although the epidemic settled down somewhat, the problem of HIV and AIDS still exists today. The epidemic of the 1990’s is something that is sure to go down in history as one of the tragic medical events of the century. Many lives were lost in a short period of time, with homosexual men comprising a large group of the people who were gone before their time.

What Does Genderqueer Mean?

 

With so many new definitions that try to explain gender and sexuality, it can start to get confusing trying to keep up with them all. One of the terms that gets thrown around a lot lately is “genderqueer.” If you are genderqueer you don’t identify with male or female traits, or you identify with a combination of traits. There is no line between masculine and feminine and some genderqueer people are androgynous.

Genderqueer people express their identity in many different ways. The genders can overlap, be fluid, or there might be no gender. Some people identify as being pangender, trigender, or bigender, or even having no gender at all. Some people don’t even name their gender.

Genderqueer is a catch-all term for any type of gender that doesn’t conform to the norms of society. Gender often comes down to more than being a man or a woman. People can identify with different genders during different periods of their lives. It isn’t necessary to be a certain gender and expressing yourself through your gender is a way to be who you really are.

Some people feel that they have to act a certain gender when they don’t really feel that way at all. They might feel predominately female one day and more male another day. There are many ways to express gender and the genderqueer term gives people a place to put what they are feeling when it falls outside of the norms.

Gender norms are so pervasive in society and it feels good to have a place to put what you are feeling. More attention is coming to transgender people and people are starting to understand more about people who don’t fit the male or female stereotype. With social issues becoming more and more up front and center, it might be time for a conversation about what it means to be genderqueer.

Sexuality doesn’t mean you have to be one thing or another and being genderqueer shows people that there are multiple genders that can be fluid and always changing. People don’t always fit neatly into stereotypical behavior. Not everyone falls into a neat gender norm.

Everybody is different and we all have a unique way to express our identities. If you are genderqueer you don’t have to label yourself as just male or female. You can embody the spectrum of what it means to be a person.

The Gay Rights Movement

Through many years, people had to live a secret life, afraid to be open with who they love. They would be fired from their jobs, lose their families and friends, and sometimes be arrested for being a little different. But that did not stop us! We protested, we found safe places and in 2015, two years ago, The Supreme Court recognized all of our hard work when the marriage between a same-sex couple became legalized. People like those who rioted at Stonewall Inn and others who fought for our rights like Harvey Milk and more modern activists like RuPaul and Meghan McCain.

CNN put together a highlight real of the gay rights movement showcasing the efforts of our brothers and sister. It’s quite extraordinary to watch. Who are some of your gay right activist heroes? What struggles have you gone through? Feel free to share with us. And always remember that LOVE IS LOVE!