The lead organization dealing with the “gays in the military” issue, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, recently merged with another key “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” group, OutServe. And they’ve appointed a new executive director who is making news: Allyson Robinson, who is transgender, former Army (West Point ’94), and a really exciting choice.
I met Allyson a year or two ago, when she was still working at the Human Rights Campaign, and damn was I impressed. Depending on where you live, and what circles you travel in, you either may or may not know many transgender people, even if you’re gay. So while straight society’s knowledge and understanding of what it means to be trans is probably lacking, to say the least, it’s not like all gay people are experts either. So it was quite interesting to meet Allyson, who’s just great.
Why do I say “great”? Because Allyson is the kind of person I’d want to head a gay group (or any other non-profit), even if she weren’t trans. She’s just good. And smart. And strong. And politically savvy. And, thankfully, doesn’t seem to appreciate all the BS that some people like to bring to politics.
Oh, and she’s nice (and fun) too.
And even more importantly, you can ask Allyson stupid questions about trans issues, and she won’t be offended. One of my pet peeves of working on civil rights issues is that it’s awfully hard to learn about other communities, because if you ask questions, and they’re not phrased the right way, boy, get ready to get an earful. And as far as I’m concerned, if someone’s heart is in the right place, and they want to learn, they can ask me whatever they want about gay issues, and I’m happy to be their guide. Allyson struck me the same way on trans issues.
Some of you may not realize that when the ban on gay service members was lifted last year, a similar, but different, ban on trans service members still remained in place.
Transgender people have a difficult and long (I think) path to walk in getting their ban lifted. It took us 20 years to get the gay ban removed, and that was with service member after service member coming forward and slowly showing the American people that we were normal, patriotic Americans who deserved the chance to serve our country. The transgender community is smaller than the gay community, so has been less visible (for other reasons too). So the education campaign isn’t nearly as far along, which is why having someone like Allyson so visible is, I think, a great boost to the trans civil rights movement.
Very interesting, and good, choice.