During Veteran’s Day, we recognize those who fought to preserve freedom. This includes GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered/sexual) military.
Besides the below list, well-known GLBT persons who served proudly include Rock Hudson (actor), Harvey Milk (politician, activist), Samuel Barber (composer), Gore Vidal (author), and Tyrone Power (actor).
GLBT soldiers have a military history back to biblical times. David (10th cent. BC) 2nd King of Israel (reign. c.1010-971/961 BC) was a recognized military leader. He is also well known for slaying Goliath.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of “transgender” is a “person who strongly identifies with the opposite sex and may seek to live as a member of this sex…” “Transsexual” is defined as “a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person’s sex at birth.” About 15,500 transgender people are serving in the military; “many … have been serving for some time when they realize they are transgender… face(ing) a tough choice: abandon their careers or suppress their identities” (source). Cross-dressing has been part of global military history; in 1429 Joan of Arc led a French army to a momentous victory over English and their French allies. At 19, Joan was tried for witchcraft and heresy, to include dressing as a man, and burned at the stake. Many women in both the American Revolution and the Civil War dressed as men so they could fight, spy, and act as scouts. But “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” (DADT) does not expand to transgendered soldiers at this writing.
Those who preach against GLBT in the military may know the name Alexander The Great, one of histories greatest leaders. He was 20 years old when he took the throne, and created one of the largest empires within 12 years. Undefeated in battle, today his tactics continue to be studied. Alexander had taken control of Egypt, Greece, Persia, Macedonia, India, and Asia. Maybe the naysayers heard of Lieutenant Colonel T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), a British Army officer during the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule during WWI. He was fluent in English, German, Greek, French, Syriac, Latin, Arabic, and Turkish.
Homosexuals have always served in the military. Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben served as Inspector General and Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. He taught the essentials of military drill and discipline. He is the author of the Revolutionary War Drill Manual (the standard United States drill manual until 1812). Ousted from Europe for being homosexual, he was welcomed by General George Washington and served as Washington’s chief of staff.
Col. Grethe Cammermeyer served in Vietnam for 14 month, six months as head nurse of a medical unit and eight months as head nurse of the neurosurgical intensive care unit. She is the recipient of numerous awards, to include the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service (Viet Nam) and Nurse of the Year by the Veterans Affairs Department. Still, the Chief Nurse of the Washington National Guard was dismissed after admitting her sexual orientation during a security-clearance interview. (Cammermeyer returned to the The National Guard and eventually retired). National Guard nurse Col. Pat Thompson retired 11 months after President Clinton announced DADT. Throughout her career she bore the burden of hiding her identity as she rose through the ranks to become Chief Nurse of the Army National Guard.
This Veteran’s Day, we need to recognize the military for their bravery, courage, and willingness to give their life so we can enjoy our freedoms. This recognition should include GLBT military members, who have been there throughout history, some fighting their own military to be able to proudly serve.