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Rescinding the military transgender policy and its positive effects


Chiefsrule58

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Chiefsrule58

Hello everyone,

 

     Full disclosure I am relatively new here and I do not post often however today I felt compelled. Keep in mind that this is just my perspective and just as a word of caution some of what I say may be triggering to some. I spent the last 24 years in the United States Navy. June 3 1996 - June 31 2020.  I joined when I was 17 and did delayed entry until I graduated.  I quit my civilian job about a month before I left for boot camp in Chicago. I left 3 days after I graduated in 1996. I was always uncertain and on the fence about serving but only because of having  gender dysphoria and not being able to do anything about it. I got married in 2002 and have 4 children so I decided to tough it out and enjoy the things about it that i truly love. Though at times things got difficult the freedom and joy I felt when out to sea working on the flight was all I needed to keep going in the Navy. Yes, I hated the berthing situation being on guard all the time, and the hiding, i hated the hiding most of all, but I managed.

    In 2014 things became even harder when I was fortunate to get selected to Chief Petty Officer. coincidently it was on my youngest son first birthday while I was onboard ship out to sea. It was at that time that my two-year-old son who is now 8 was diagnosed with autism. And our one-year-old was also showing signs of developmental issues, later he too would be diagnosed with autism and later OCD as well.

Prior to the ban on transgender service being lifted I was able to do well at work, but it was so exhausting, and I was not functioning well at home and my wife suggested that I find a therapist she knew of my gender struggles since 2004 when i came out to her.  Of course, I could not do that in the Navy and had to keep it quiet, but I decided to listen to my wife. She found me a  gender therapist and about a year later I had started hormones through a civilian doctor.  On the day that the secretary of defense announced that military would no longer separate service members for being transgender I felt free especially of the fear of being ousted. I can not tell you how many times I had the same reoccurring dream of being discovered and marched straight to Captains Mast, publicly ridiculed, losing my anchors and being separated from the Navy that I loved. It was the first time that i truly felt apart of Navy and the Sailors creed applied to me.  I was still very uncertain about coming out though because so many negative things were being said around the command from the time the discussion had begun and continued even after the ban was first lifted. Everyday coming to work felt like I was crossing a picket line and I was on the wrong side of it. At one point I decided to address it through the only anonymous source I had available the dreaded command climate survey it at least quieted down some of voices I am all for freedom of speech even speech i don't agree with, its just in the Navy there is policy and then there are personal opinions and opinions should not out weigh policy.  Also i just wanted to live my live in peace and do my job without all the negativity.

    Things  eventually became more than I could handle on my own I started having panic attacks, became depressed and was barley sleeping.  There was just too much stress in my life.  Somehow, perhaps by the grace of God I was able to continue my running routine which at this point was the only thing I could do that made a difference and for a few minutes feel more connected myself.  However, even that was not enough to stop my own thoughts  from betraying me and all the negativity from getting to me especially since I no longer had regular access to therapy or group meeting  being  on multiple detachments preparing for deployment.  At this point I found myself suicidal for the first time in my life. A phone call from my wife convinced me to go get help. I went very reluctantly to Navy medical and ended up speaking with a flight surgeon from the Carrier Air Group (basically the Navy's version of primary care doctors in squadrons). I was not thinking clearly at the time and ended up outing myself. He was not bothered by my disclosure but because of Navy rules had to tell my Commanding Officer who then told my direct boss the Command Master Chief.  He also informed my squadrons flight surgeon. He did help me with my sleep issue to some degree  as I was able to go from 3 hours of sleep per night to between 4-5 hours.

     It took a couple weeks and my prodding before my squadron flight surgeon set up an appointment with me. I could tell by his reluctance that he was more nervous than I was. At that point I didn’t only just need his help with my mental health I also needed his approval in order to reenlist or extend I was just 3 months shy of 20 years at this time. Some my wonder why not just get out and move on, transition even. The simple truth is I was not ready to end the career that I loved nor was I ready  or mentally capable at this point to deal with transition.  

    I remember that day like it was yesterday, he sat against the wall on a chair across from the exam table that I was setting on. He looked at me did this half laugh half chuckle, leaned forward putting his hands on his forehead  shook his head and said you’re my age there is no way you are transgender, you cannot be transgender its just not possible. Of course, at this point I was so ashamed that I wanted to melt into the floor and exit out under the door.  He must have noticed  my reaction because after a few seconds of silence he said why don’t you just retire. I told him that I was not ready to retire and that I was not looking to transition just needed someone to talk too about my dysphoria and other issues. He knew that i was having suicidal thoughts because I had told him and yet his reply was that he had already checked to see if there was anyone i could talk too specifically about gender issues and that there was no one that I could talk about my issues.   He then decided to ask me about my about my suicidal thoughts of course at this point there was no way I was talking to him. He must of felt guilty because during the conversation I told him that I was concerned about how my dysphoria might effect me on the upcoming detachment onboard the ship. Even though it provides some distraction I really struggle with dealing with the berthing and bathrooms on the ship. Usually I get up before everyone else and just go to sleep later as well of course this is a recipe for disaster so I wanted something else for my tool box to cope with it. I was not trying to get out of the detachment in fact I had a regular rotation to shore duty coming up which is 5 years sea duty and then 3 years shore for my rating and paygrade.   I was supposed to be transferring to a shore duty and my replacement was not yet at the Command.  The command because of this had asked me to reduce my transfer leave and help them through the detachment. 

               I decided to go along with their request, I really liked the squadron and wanted to do right by both the Command and my Sailors and make sure that they were ready for deployment.   He told me I could always speak with the Chaplin if i needed too i agreed and then asked him if he was going to sign my reenlistment request.  He reluctantly signed it and I left. 

   I transferred a couple months later, and it was clear shortly after I checked in that they did not trust me around Sailors, so I had to assume the upper Chain of Command knew about me  being transgender.  Its normal to some degree to have to prove yourself to a new command however In the pervious command I had been in charge of a division, led the command through a difficult inspection were  the Command received a perfect score, it was the first perfect score for that inspection in over three years. I Know that it was in large part to the Sailors hard work, dedication and wiliness to learn that made it possible.  The commands attitude was difficult for me and I was also struggling with getting services for my youngest son who was 4 at the time and did not speak but had started making sounds. Up until that point we used sign language to communicate but we were just starting out so we only knew the basics.

    I started working as the Electricians branch Chief and Flight Line Coordinator.  It was very hot that summer and I often did not wear a blouse on the flight line, and the hormones were beginning to make some changes, but I didn’t care I wasn’t afraid of being separated or discovered anymore. I switched to the night shift so i could take my son to speech therapy.  Working night check in the Navy means you come to work in the late afternoon or early evening while its still daylight hours.  One day I was on the flight line,  my blouse was off and I was walking towards my civilian counterpart who was the plane captains flight line coordinator when I heard over the radio from his civilian boss that “IT”  meaning me was coming towards him. A few other comments were made i will not repeat them here. I finished doing what I had to do and during a short break headed to the bathroom(head). Of course, he was there too, i guess with both had to go to the bathroom.  I lost it I went into one of the stalls and when I was by myself, I cried for a few minutes unfortunately I have always been a little sensitive. From then on, I did not work on the flight line without a blouse on no matter how hot it was outside.  A few months later came the infamous tweets to Ban transgender service once again. I did not even know that it had occurred until I arrived at work that day.  I was so focused on my sons, getting the oldest two to school and my youngest to speech therapy that i wasn't paying attention to anything else. I found out from the Sailors that worked for me when I arrived that day they were angry about it and supportive.

               Months later still on the fence of if I should transition or not the Supreme court had decided to let the ban be put in place starting in April.  It was February 2019 and I was on detachment and my depression was worse than ever. I was on detachment and my wife had called me letting me know that the house was flooded because of a hot water line(pipe) inside the wall broke and that her and the boys were staying in a hotel.   I guess that little problem that had such an obvious solution was all it took to send me over the edge because on our final day of detachment which happened to be a day off since the detachment was complete. We were only waiting for a plane ride home the next morning.  That morning I went for my usual 4 mile run, I know I supposed to be depressed but I always find motivation to run. Afterwards I went back to room, took a shower, cleaned up and packed  my things for the trip home. After calling my wife I started drinking and that night ended  with me making the first attempt on my own life.  Medically it was not serious, emotionally that was a different story . I woke up that morning to some terribly angry fellow chiefs since I was late, and we needed to get to the air terminal for the trip home. I still do not know how to this day that no one noticed but they did not I got on the plane and slept the entire 6 hours home.  My wife met me at the terminal and she drove us to the Navy Lodge on base since the house was still unlivable. I ended up failing asleep  on the bed while trying to get my uniform off.  I did not wake up until my wife was getting the boys ready for school the next morning.

               It was now May 2019 and we were still living in the hotel but were supposed to be able to move back into our house soon. I was on yet another detachment to the same place in Florida that I had been to in February.  Being stationed in California it was a bit of a trip.  Of course, I had made the mistake of not getting help, after everything that had happened the last time I tried and the fact that the ban was back, I just could not bring myself to do it plus I was not sure what would happen if i brought it up.  The one thing I did know is that I wanted to finish my career and get out of the Navy on my own terms. We had a particularly long weekend and was fool enough to go out with some other Chiefs and I drank way too much and it ultimately lead to my second attempt.

    I woke up three days later. In truth it did not scare me what scared me was causing harm to my wife and kids that the last thing I wanted to do. Eventually though those thoughts came back but this time I did not act.  It was super bowl Sunday and as per usual I was on detachment this time to El Centro California.  I forced myself to reach out and decided using the Veterans crisis text line was my best option. I texted with the woman on the other end of the line for over two hours.  I immediately felt some of load lifted away and that kept me going for some time afterwards.  Then of course, COVID arrived on the scene and I was about to start terminal leave and I was officially retiring. I had no doubt it was time  to put my boots in closet and take the uniform off because of when I decided it was time the year prior.  I did not get selected for Senior Chief all I felt was relief to not have to decide on weather or not to accept the promotion and give three more years or  go ahead and retire.

               Many things have occurred since then,  I  had separated and things were not getting better, so I took a leap of faith and reached out to the VA. I was pleasantly surprised when there was no judgement and though it took a while for me to get connected to a therapist and the intake was grueling it has proven to be worth it. I still have work to do but now for the first time in three years I can see a future with me in it.  I decided to write this partly because of President Biden rescinding the transgender service ban and to offer hope to someone else that might need it, to remind them they matter, and things can and do get better. I know life is not easy sometimes, it can be downright difficult to just get out of bed when your depressed and in the middle of the storm.  The only advice I can offer is just keep going learn from my mistakes and your own after all  we are only human.  Forgive yourself your worth it, reach out and ask for help when you need it if at all possible don't wait for things to become overwhelming. We very seldom get a second chance let alone a third one.

I am eternally grateful that God spared me and I fully intend to make the most of that opportunity.  With an event of such significance the reversal of the transgender military service ban please show your support by sharing your story with those that intend to serve, and active duty military members.  We are living proof that things can and do get better we just have to keep going and pushing for progress. Thanks for reading this exceptionally long post.  For those that have served Thank you for both your service and your sacrifice, have a blessed day.

 

                                                                           Jamie

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Thank you for sharing. It is often said that a weight shared is a weight halved and I think many of us here can attest to that being true. I can remember from my short time in military service that being confined with a small group of people does increase stress no end. I am glad that you were able to serve well but obviously sad that you were so stressed while doing so. It is so slow that people realise that many things in modern service can now be done by anyone with the right aptitude and training. Gender does not come into it.

 

Tracy

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Chiefsrule58

   Tracy,

            Thank you for your kind reply. I agree with you that a burden shared is indeed a weight cut in half. I truly hope what I shared helps someone else to realize that things can and do get better.  I was  concerned about posting it,  being so personnel, plus I did not want judgment and most importantly wanted  to avoid upsetting anyone. 

         Hopefully Congress passes some form of legislation that makes reversal of the ban more permanent other wise I fear it could  turn into a sea saw effect depending on who is in office. The uncertainty is difficult, the ban being lifted removes that and most importantly it takes away the license to be unkind and discriminate  saying whatever you want about others or removing opportunities all of which go directly against the Navy Core values. Which, is why I always felt that the Sailors creed didn't include Sailors like me.  I personally witnessed and experienced it and  unfortunately it included  both health care providers and senior leadership.  With the ban being lifted maybe the DOD or the individual Departments will have to provide better and more useful training to service members. The training I received only led to people making jokes and repeating recycled comments it was not a useful conversation.  You have to start somewhere though and it is a great start because I believe ignorance breeds fear and fear turns into dislike and eventually hate.  If you remove the root cause through education, productive conversation and with open service it will go along way towards changing things it will just be a matter of time.

 

         Have a blessed day,

    

                               Jamie

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