President Trump says allowing transgender people to serve in the military would bring “disruption” that could stand in the way of the “decisive and overwhelming victory” our armed forces must strive for. Apparently, he doesn’t think transgender Americans are capable or worthy of defending our nation. But he’s wrong. Thousands of patriotic transgender Americans already put their lives on the line every day to keep our country free. We’ve been doing that since the 1700s.
I know: I was one of them.
From the time I was 5, growing up in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, I knew I was transgender. I just didn’t know what it was called. From a very early age, I always thought I should be wearing my younger sister’s clothes, and sometimes, when I was home alone, I did. When I graduated from high school, I joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard and my local sheriff’s department as a reserve deputy. I hoped joining those male-dominated institutions might help me deal with the certainty I had that I was a woman, not a man. It didn’t, but I had no better ideas: I didn’t know anyone else out there had any idea what I was going through. It wasn’t until I was 25 and read about Renée Richards, a professional tennis player who had to sue the U.S. Tennis Association to be allowed to play as a woman, that I realized I wasn’t alone.
In the Army, I worked hard to suppress my authentic self. I knew that being transgender would disqualify me from the job I loved — and it was a job I did well. I served in the Army infantry for 34 years and 10 months. As a captain, I commanded a light infantry unit of 100 personnel and deployed twice. Eventually, I was promoted to colonel. I retired as director of manpower and personnel for the Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard.
All along, I kept my secret. Sometimes, very infrequently, I would find a few hours, or a few days, when I could be my authentic self: I’d wear women’s clothes, behind the safety of a locked front door. But then I’d purge everything, destroying all the evidence of my real identity as the guilt set in, because I knew I wasn’t exhibiting the behavior expected of a man.
I retired in 2004 but still felt a need to serve my country. I became a lead instructor at the Army’s Force Management School at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. While I was there, I decided to transition from male to female. It was time to live up to my own expectations, rather than the expectations of others. I took six weeks off work, and when I came back, my boss told me the school didn’t need me anymore and that he had already hired my replacement. For a career Army infantry colonel, being told I was no longer needed without any real explanation was a slap in the face. I was upset, but I knew I had no recourse — it was years before President Barack Obama would sign an executive order protecting federal workers from discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.
I loved my country, though, and I knew I could still help keep it safe and strong. In 2008, I took a new job at the Pentagon working in the Army’s headquarters as a civilian analyst. People think of the Pentagon as a conservative institution, but my experience there was nothing but positive. I was known for the skills I brought to my work, for the analysis I did and for the recommendations I made — not for my gender identity. No one ever mentioned or questioned who I might have been in a different life.
Now that Trump has decided to overturn Obama’s order to allow transgender Americans to serve openly, I can’t imagine what my fellow trans service members are feeling today. I know transgender people are going to get up tomorrow, put their uniform on and defend their country — just like they do every day — but I also know they’re going to be wondering if the commander in chief is really looking out for their best interests. Transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen are among the top performers in their fields. When trans service members can serve openly and receive necessary medical treatment, they are allowed to focus entirely on their jobs. As a result, their individual readiness increases, as does that of their unit. When you live inauthentically, hiding your identity from your colleagues, your friends, your family, it brings inevitable distractions. I’m proud of my service, and I would never have made the rank of colonel in an extremely competitive military hierarchy if I weren’t an excellent leader. But I still sometimes wonder how much better an NCO and an officer I could have been if I had been able to transition and serve authentically during my time in the Army.
People are afraid of what they don’t know or what they don’t understand. It’s much more difficult to hate and discriminate against someone when you know their story. Maybe the president will listen to some of the stories of the brave men and women, like me, who serve our country proudly. In the military, the most important thing is to get the job done. Getting the job done is based on a person’s character and ability. An individual’s gender identity has no influence on those things. It’s a shame Trump doesn’t realize that.
To the Burley City Council: Shame on you for stealing property from Franklin Building Supply! Not only will this cripple our business but it will negatively affect or property owners that share our property line. Graffiti will be rampant and the homeowners will have to pay to fix the problem or be fined by the city.
That is a problem you will have created! Punishing us for taking our property!
But the subdivision behind Cal Ranch will also be affected. You demand we run our commercial traffic trucks through their residential area so we can go straight through the stop light at Cal Ranch. Are you kidding me? What brain-dead idiot thought it was OK to run semis through a residential neighborhood just to get your stupid street?! This whole project is wrong!!
Franklin’s will not be able to do business as usual and we have no option to expand! You just keep taking our property from us! You say we quit working with you. But the truth is the city never worked with us. You guys just came in with a wink and a nod. Nothing legal, nothing in writing. Just talk. Ten years ago. A lot has changed since then! We have a new manager who never gave a wink and a nod. And we are now a 100-percent employee owned and we employee-owners know the value of our property and we are telling the city to go pound sand!
This road does not meet the legal definitions for imminent domain! Stop it! Call the mayor and city council members!
This appeared in the Lewiston Tribune:
Idaho Republican Mike Simpson is serving his 10th term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
He’s now a “cardinal” — which means he is chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.
Before that, Simpson spent seven terms in the Idaho House — where he rose to become House speaker.
He is no glory hound.
He’s an establishment figure.
He does not pine to get booked on “Meet the Press” or “Face the Nation.”
He is not one to engage in hyperbolic bomb throwing.
But when you ask Simpson a question, he’s prone toward delivering a candid answer.
Case in point: Last week’s Politico report about Republican congressional dissatisfaction with a legislative agenda stalled by President Trump’s mishandling of the Russia investigation, fights with the media and use of his Twitter account.
“I don’t even pay attention to what is going on with the administration because I don’t care. They’re a distraction. The family is a distraction, the president is a distraction,” Simpson said. “At first, it was ‘Well yeah, this is the guy we elected. He’ll learn, he’ll learn.’ And you just don’t see that happening.
“Quite frankly, I’m starting to wonder if anyone in the (Trump) family knows what the truth is.”
Keep in mind, as MSNBC’s Steve Benen noted, Simpson is not some center-left Republican. According to the political website FiveThirtyEight, Simpson has voted 100 percent with the president.
But he’s also steeped in the culture of Capitol Hill, has friends on both sides of the aisle, reads widely and is a student of the legislative process. And unlike many of his colleagues, he’s not inclined to conceal his frustration with the Trump White House.
In fact, it’s becoming something of a pattern.
When former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in May, Simpson didn’t mince words; he found Comey’s story more believable than the president’s.
“I don’t know everything, but everything I know, Comey has the credibility,” he said. “If he’s written this down in memos and so forth, maybe told his chief of staff about it when he wrote it down and stuff, that’s pretty damaging.”
According to the Washington Post, Simpson also drew parallels to the Watergate scandal, which drove President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974.
“What I’m worried about is, in the early 1970s, politicians like me were standing around saying, ‘Nixon’s OK, he didn’t do anything,’ and look what it led to,” Simpson said. “And every day there is something that adds on to it.”
Nor has Simpson retracted his denunciation of Trump during last fall’s “Access Hollywood” scandal when the Republican standard bearer was caught on tape acknowledging his sexual abuse of women: “While I’ve never endorsed Donald Trump, I find his recent comments about women deplorable. In my opinion, he has demonstrated that he is unfit to be president and I cannot support him.”
That puts Simpson at odds not only with Congressman Raul Labrador and Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter — who got in line and campaigned for Trump—but also Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, who initially condemned Trump in even stronger terms but then came back to the GOP fold.
Where this is headed, who knows?
You can count on this much: Nothing about Donald Trump or his minions scares Simpson.
Having survived a Club for Growth-engineered primary challenge in 2014, the Idaho Republican trusts his 2nd Congressional District voters. After all, he’s been more successful in winning Idaho GOP primaries than Trump — who last year lost the state to Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
And Simpson is playing the long game. Years from now, he’ll have no reason to regret what he has said about Trump.
Which is a lot more than you can say about Simpson’s colleagues in Idaho or anywhere else.