Bella and Darla tonight at Sue Ellen’s

Hump day soundtrack

Sue Ellen’s has made the smart move to go with the artist-in-residence bit on Wednesdays. With a weekly performance by a local artist(s) or band, we either get to know someone new or rediscover some veterans of the scene. This month, Bella and Darla do their acoustic thing on Wednesdays with covers and originals to get you through the week. A beer will help with that also.

DEETS: Sue Ellen’s, 3014 Throckmorton St. 8 p.m. SueEllens.com.

—  Rich Lopez

‘Perform or provide’

DADT repeal gives progressive chaplains a chance to counter evangelical clergy in the military

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CATCH-ALL CHAPLAIN | Chaplain Chris Antal (Lt.) attended the meeting of the Forum on Military Chaplaincy at Cathedral of Hope in October. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
When a soldier recently came to Chaplain Chris Antal, a lieutenant in the Army National Guard in New York and a Unitarian Universalist minister, and asked if he’d pray with her even though she was a pagan, he said he replied, “Of course I will, but you’ll have to show me how.”

Several weeks later, when he saw her again, she told him that the day she had come to visit him, she had hit rock bottom. He had, she told him, saved her life that day.

But Antal said he was only doing his job — helping any soldier who comes to him.

“I’ve earned the nickname, the Catch-all Chaplain,” he said, explaining that it means he takes everyone the other chaplains don’t want to deal with.

Carpenter.Dodd

Capt. Tom Carpenter (ret.) and Col. Paul Dodd (ret.)

Being there to help a soldier in need is what it’s all about for a military chaplain, said Col. Paul Dodd, a retired chaplain who now lives in Austin.

“The duty of a military chaplain is to perform or provide,” said Dodd, adding that he once sponsored an Islamic conference.

Dodd said that no chaplain can perform every service needed by every member of the military. But if a chaplain can’t perform the service requested, he or she must provide that soldier with a referral to someone else who can.

Antal said that chaplains who enlisted knew what they were getting into — to some extent. But none of them really expected the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And for many, that repeal was a game changer.

In October, a group of active and retired chaplains and military personnel and other people of faith, such as the Rev. Steve Sprinkle from Brite Divinity

School in Fort Worth, met at the Interfaith Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope to begin looking at ways of addressing the issues that arose for military chaplains around DADT repeal.

Dave Guy Gainer said The Forum on Military Chaplaincy is not exactly new. It formed in 2005 as a project of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and worked under the radar until DADT was repealed.

Sprinkle said people in the Pentagon, up through Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, knew about their work and considered their statements throughout the DADT repeal process.

And now, with repeal complete, the group met to “come out.” At their meeting in Dallas, forum members considered ways to become an independent organization helping to ensure newly out service members receive the pastoral care they need while serving in the military.

Susan Gore, principle of The Mentor Group and editor of the book Coming Out In Faith, moderated the Dallas conference. She said the group started with several retired military officers “who wanted to push back against the far-right skew.”

Sprinkle has been part of the forum for four years and said he was recruited to participate because of his work on hate crimes.
Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Sprinkle said, more and more members of the Chaplain Corps have come from just one school — Liberty

University, founded by far-right evangelical Jerry Falwell. Today, Sprinkle estimated, one-third of military chaplains come from Liberty University.

“They instituted a program that barely meets minimum requirements,” he said of the evangelical school. “It’s an online course.”

And, Sprinkle said, Liberty University’s goal is to take control of the Chaplain Corps and use the military as a pool for religious recruits.

“This is fertile ground to bring people to Jesus at taxpayer expense,” said Tom Carpenter, a retired Marine captain and one of the forum’s founders.

“I’ve heard stories of them holding the hand of someone who’s dying and trying to bring them to Jesus.”

And although such actions contradict military policy, no one in the corps has been disciplined or dismissed for it.

“They give chaplains a lot of leeway,” Carpenter said.

Gainer said the military is looking for well-rounded ministers who bring experience with them to the military.

According to the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School in Fort Jackson, S.C., candidates must be endorsed by their denomination or faith group and be “sensitive to religious pluralism and able to provide for the free exercise of religion by all military personnel, their family members and civilians who work for the Army.”

But Sprinkle said that Liberty University is transparent about its goals, and those goals do not line up.

“They’re not committed to pluralism or serving all the troops,” he said.

Gainer said that the greatest opposition to repealing DADT came from the Chaplain Corps because military chaplains answer to two groups — the military and their denomination. Those chaplains that didn’t adhere to a strict stance of maintaining the ban on gays and lesbians were threatened with losing their accreditation from their endorsing religious body — and with it their livelihood and their pensions.

But that contradicts the stated goals of the Chaplain Corps.

“Someone has to say, ‘Either you comply and serve all the troops all the time or get out,’” Sprinkle said.

Gore said that one of the goals of the newly public forum is to “rebalance the Chaplain Corps by bringing in more mainstream faiths.” She said that for many who come from more liberal traditions, questions of what’s a just war make it hard to serve in the military. Antal, for example, is one of just four Unitarian Universalists in the Chaplain Corps.

During its push for repeal of DADT, members
said, the forum had several successes working behind the scenes.

Despite the assumption of confidentiality between parishioner and clergy, that wasn’t always the case between gay soldier and chaplain. Dodd said that a number of discharges under DADT occurred after a soldier talked to a chaplain and the chaplain turned them in.

In fact, he wrote a white paper on the practice. After he submitted it, the military tightened up on chaplain confidentiality, Dodd said.

Carpenter, an attorney, wrote an amicus brief for the Log Cabin Republicans’ lawsuit against DADT. The court found in favor of declaring DADT unconstitutional, but Congress repealed the law before the decision could be enforced.

Carpenter said that the repeal allows gays and lesbians to serve with no protection. The legal decision, had it not been vacated upon repeal, would have allowed gays and lesbians to serve equally.

Now that DADT is gone, the forum is examining how to ensure LGB personnel receive the same services as other troops from chaplains.

Dodd said that right-wing chaplains charge that allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military will force them to act in ways that go against their beliefs. Some have said they would be required to perform same-sex weddings.

Dodd called that ridiculous. Chaplains are never asked to perform duties that go against their religious beliefs, he said.

“I turned down weddings,” he said. “An officer came to me who wasn’t divorced.”

He said the officer tried to pull strings and force the issue, but Dodd wasn’t going to discuss marrying someone who was still married to someone else.

“But we’re insisting chaplains have the authority, if it’s in keeping with their faith, to marry same-sex couples,” he said.

Because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the repeal provides no family benefits. For some issues, Dodd and Carpenter suggested work-arounds.

Issuing ID cards would be extremely helpful, especially to same-sex couples with children, Carpenter said, noting that “That way either parent could get on base to get a child to the hospital.”

In another example, joint assignments can be offered at the discretion of a commanding officer, and married couples are often assigned together when they both qualify for positions that are available at the same base. Same-sex couples could be given the same priority.

As the forum looks ahead, rebalancing the Chaplain Corps with members from a more diverse background to reflect the membership of the military is a priority.

“And we need to take care of our trans brothers and sisters,” Carpenter said.

The repeal of DADT did not address any transgender issues and does not allow transgender men or women to serve in the military.

Gainer believes representatives of the forum need to sit down with far-right members of the Chaplain Corps and agree to disagree. He said that before the repeal of DADT, they talked to people at Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion. While both groups testified against the repeal, they met with some success.

“The president of the VFW in Pflugerville said it was the right thing to do,” Gainer said.

That dialogue, he believed, would help chaplains perform or at least provide a useful referral, rather than doing more damage to a soldier seeking help.

Gore thought that the focus of discussion should be with the majority of chaplains “who want to do a good job and are part of the moveable middle.”

“We have to convince administrators and educators in divinity schools to encourage some of their best and brightest to serve,” Sprinkle said. “So many schools dropped what they were doing during the Vietnam era.”

Antal thinks that gays and lesbians will gain more acceptance as they tell their stories in non-confrontational settings and others see “their identity as professional service members is primary.”

While the work of the forum will concentrate on helping LGB military personnel, creating a more diverse Chaplain Corps may help a majority of service members. Recent polls show that a majority of troops find the chaplaincy irrelevant.

Sprinkle called the work of the forum a gift from the LGBT community to the nation.

“You wouldn’t think we’d be the ones opening the doors so that all troops will be served with dignity, integrity and respect,” he said.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 4, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

From screen to stage

Q Cinema veterans tackle live theater with the guerrilla-like QLive!

CURTAIN UP! | Producing partners Todd Camp and Kyle Trentham have theater backgrounds, but QLive! is a departure from the movie-focused work their organization, Q Cinema, has done for a dozen years.

MARK LOWRY  | Special Contributor
marklowry@theaterjones.com

………………..

QLIVE: NONE OF THE ABOVE
Trinity Bicycles patio,
207 S. Main St., Fort Worth.
Sept. 23–24 at 8 p.m.
$15, QCinema.org

…………………

Anyone who’s ever wanted to start a theater company will tell you that the biggest hurdle is finding the right space. It’s no different in DF-Dub, where the opportunities seem endless, but affordable spaces that can work for the demands of theater are limited.

QLive!, a new theater company based in Fort Worth, is finding ways to work around that. Its first full production, for instance, is None of the Above , a two-person drama by Jenny Lyn Bader. It opens Friday on the back patio of a bicycle shop just west of downtown Cowtown.

“One of the things we’ve talked about is the immersive experience, where it’s not just that you sit down and watch a show, but you experience a show,” says QLive’s Todd Camp, who founded Fort Worth’s LGBT film festival, Q Cinema. “The three shows that we have lend themselves quite well to that.”

Those three shows, which run this fall, begin with Above, which deals with a parochial school student and her teacher. In November, there’ll be Yasmina Reza’s oft-produced Art, which will hopefully happen in a gallery space (they’re still negotiating). It will close out the year with Terrence McNally’s controversial Corpus Christi, taking place in a machine shop near downtown Fort Worth.

QLive! has been a project three years in the making, and will be led by Camp’s Q Cinema cohort Kyle Trentham, as artistic director. The group has already launched a successful Tuesday night open mike comedy event at Percussions Lounge, and in February presented a staged reading of Frank Wedekind’s 1891 play Spring Awakening, the day before the musical based on that play opened at Bass Performance Hall. They also brought Hollywood comedy writer Bruce Vilanch in for a one-night performance.

Like other arts groups with a large LGBT following that present works of interest to that community — including Uptown Players and the Turtle Creek Chorale — Trentham says QLive doesn’t want the label of “gay theater” … despite the big “Q” in its name.

“Young [audiences] don’t think in those terms anymore,” he says. “They just want to see theater they like.”

With Corpus Christi, Trentham says that creating an immersive experience will be crucial to the production. “It’s a working machine shop,” he says. “You walk in and the actors are working, getting their hands dirty. Then in the cleansing scene, they actually are cleaned.”

Camp, who has led Q Cinema for 13 years, is no stranger to controversy. He was a critical player in the late ‘90s “Labor of Love” project at the now-defunct Fort Worth Theatre. That group presented shows like Paul Rudnick’s Jeffrey and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, and Mart Crowley’s The Boys in the Band. A few times, there were protesters in front of the performance space, Orchestra Hall.

Considering the dust-up Corpus Christi caused in Texas last year when a Tarelton State University junior had his student production of it canceled, Camp is prepared for blowback.

“You are not going to tell me what I can and cannot do in my town, even if you’re the lieutenant governor,” he says. “This is an important work by a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who’s from Texas. … It’s an incredibly pro-spiritual show. It’s not anti-religion or blasphemous. It takes organized religion, which has been used to club the gay and lesbian community for many years, and retells the story that makes it a little more compatible and open to them.”

For now, they’ll have to see how their audience deals with a show outside a bike shop.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 23, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Transgender Veterans Talking About Open Military Service

Lisa Leff of the Associated Press (AP) wrote an article recently that was carried in newspapers and news websites across the country. Thumbnail link: San Diego Union Tribune posting of Associated Press (AP) article: Transgender Vets Want Military Access For Own (January 11, 2011)The name of the piece was Transgender Vets Want Military Access For Own. Transgender veterans are beginning to raise the prospect of open service for transgender people who wish to serve in the U.S. military services.

The repeal legislation for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) didn’t address transgender service — as it shouldn’t have. There has been federal law that stated, in essence, that lesbian, gay, and bisexual people couldn’t serve openly. There is no federal law barring the service of transgender people — there is only military policy. From the article:

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy now heading toward history does not apply to transgender recruits, who are automatically disqualified as unfit for service. But the military’s long-standing posture on gender-identity has not prevented transgender citizens from signing up before they come out, or from obtaining psychological counseling, hormones and routine health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs once they return to civilian life.

Image: Autumn Sandeen holding photo of herself from when she was in the U.S. Navy. Photo of Autumn in uniform is from 1980. Photo by Gregory Bull.So as the Pentagon prepares to welcome openly gay, lesbian and bisexual service members for the first time, [Autumn] Sandeen is not alone in hoping the U.S. will one day join the seven other nations — Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, the Czech Republic, Thailand and Australia — that allow transgender troops.

“There is really no question, it’s just a matter of when,” said former Army Capt. Allyson Robinson, 40, a 1994 West Point graduate who has spoken to sociology classes at the alma mater she attended as a male cadet. “There are active-duty, as well as reserve and national guard transgender service members, serving today.”

Monica Helms, the president of the Transgender American Veterans Association spoke at Atlanta’s DADT repeal event about the future prospect of transgender people being able to serve openly.

There are transsexuals serving in the U.S. military — some who were not discovered to have had genital reconstruction surgery when they had their intake physicals. There are some transsexuals who are serving who are not out in their target sex as of yet. There are genderqueer people who are serving who are serving as the sex defined by their genitalia at birth; there are crossdressers who are serving now, hiding their propensity to dress as members of the opposite sex. Again, from the AP article:

No one knows how many transgender people are serving or have served. Neither the Department of Defense nor the VA keep statistics on how many service members have been discharged or treated for transgender conditions or conduct.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has strongly recommended transgender servicemembers should not come out of the closet with the repeal of DADT.

Military regulations state that men and women who identify with or present a gender different from their sex at birth have mental conditions that make them ineligible to serve. Those who have undergone genital surgery are listed as having physical abnormalities. Service members caught cross-dressing on base have been court-martialed for interfering with “good order and discipline,” according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.

About a week or so ago I spoke to a former service member who was discharged for being a transsexual — she received a military discharge code on her DD-214 that indicated she had a “personality disorder” — the same discharge code used for pedophiles.

Employment, housing, public accommodation, access to heathcare (to include transition services), and access to education are all transgender community priorities that are probably higher than open military service for transgender community members, but that doesn’t mean that open military service for transgender community members isn’t on the priority list. Just as the lesbian, gay, and bisexual members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community — as well as their intra- and extra-community allies — are capable of working on more than one community issue at the same time, so too is the transgender subcommunity — and their intra- and extra-community allies capable of working on more than one issue at the same time.

Quite a number of transgender community members strongly stood shoulder-to-shoulder with their LGB community siblings regarding repeal of DADT — it will be interesting to see if lesbian, gay, and bisexual community members will stand as strongly, shoulder-to-shoulder, with their transgender community siblings for open military service for transgender people.

But to be sure though, one day the U.S. will join with Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, Israel, the Czech Republic, Thailand, and Australia in allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military services. It’s just a matter of time.

[Below the fold: AP video that accompanied the AP article (Photographed by Gregory Bull).]


Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Press Release: Transgender American Veterans Association Salutes the Repeal Vote of DADT

Transgender veterans have served in the United States military services, and are even now serving in the United States military services. Thumbnail Link: Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA)However, they serve in the closet; the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) doesn’t result in transgender veterans soon being able to serve openly.

TAVA (TAVA) has a press release out on the congressional votes to repeal DADT. In the press release, the vice-president of the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA), Angela Brightfeather, said this in the press release:

It should be recognized that DADT has never included directives concerning Transgender people serving in the military. Therefore, there was no call from Transgender Americans to equally serve in the military of their country, without persecution and discrimination. However, Transgender people who have and still do serve under the same pre-DADT conditions, still find it necessary to lie and hide who they are, contrary to the best traditions of the military.

She then goes on to add:

We now press our GLB brothers and sisters to finish the job and help provide the means for Transgender people to be able to serve their country openly and equally as do all Americans.

Well.

We’re going to have a few months to a year of preps to implement repeal — for as y’all may not remember, now the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff must sign off on lesbian, gay, and bisexual being able to serve openly. With that signing off, policies will need to be set in place for lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers’ open service — such as antidiscrimination policies and servicemember benefits. Basically, the implementation of the repeal of DADT will no doubt keep the DADT focused LGBT organizations busy for quite a number of months.

But that said the question for those organizations focus their missions after the sign-off and policies are set in place will be one of “What are you going to do towards transgender servicemembers being able to serve openly?”

Will these organizations be willing to take on a seventeen-ish year slog towards allowing transgender servicemembers being able to serve openly as they took on a seventeen year slog for lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers being able to serve openly? And probably more importantily, will these organizations be able to raise sufficient funds from the LGBT community members to take on the long and costly for the T people of the LGBT community?

Those are good question. But, I’m for letting the DADT focused LGBT organizations focus during the upcoming months on DADT implementation. Legislation or policy that would allow transgender people to serve openly isn’t at the top of most trans people’s agendas — most would rather prioritize a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) over legislation to allow transgender people to serve in the military services openly — but the DADT focused LGBT organizations are going to have to address the question of transgender servicemembers being able to serve openly at a point in the not too distant future.

The TAVA press release:

Transgender American Veterans Association Salutes the Repeal Vote of DADT

Contact: Monica Helms: president@tavausa.org

Denny Meyer: media@tavausa.org / (718) 849-5665

We are proud of our democracy that Congress passed this monumental repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Even though transgender people are still going to be separated from military service, Transgender American Veterans Association salutes this passage. We who have served our nation proudly now anticipate our own progress to freedom and equality.

Monica Helms, President of TAVA said, “For 17 years the US has made their gay lesbian and bisexual service members second class citizens and caused them to have to lie about who they are and who they love. No longer will that be the case. We now turn our attention to allowing transgender people to serve openly.”

“It should be recognized that DADT has never included directives concerning Transgender people serving in the military.” Angela Brightfeather, TAVA’s Vice President stated, “Therefore, there was no call from Transgender Americans to equally serve in the military of their country, without persecution and discrimination. However, Transgender people who have and still do serve under the same pre-DADT conditions, still find it necessary to lie and hide who they are, contrary to the best traditions of the military. We now press our GLB brothers and sisters to finish the job and help provide the means for Transgender people to be able to serve their country openly and equally as do all Americans.”

Many of America’s allied nations have long since allowed open transgender service along with the service of those with alternate sexual orientation. The next frontier is for the United States is to progress to full and complete inclusion of the right to serve our nation. It is TAVA’s expectation that now that DADT has been repealed that all those involved in achieving the repeal will now turn their attention to help transgender Americans also be able serve openly.

- 30 -

Founded in 2003, the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA) is a 501 (c) 3 organization that acts proactively with other concerned civil rights and human rights organizations to ensure that transgender veterans will receive appropriate care for their medical conditions in accordance with the Veterans Health Administration’s Customer Service Standards promise to “treat you with courtesy and dignity . . . as the first class citizen that you are.” Further, TAVA will help in educating the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) on issues regarding fair and equal treatment of transgender individuals. Also, TAVA will help the general transgender community when deemed appropriate and within the IRS guidelines.

Pam’s House Blend – Front Page

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Veterans Across Ohio Push Senator Voinovich to Stand Up for Repeal

Yesterday, HRC held simultaneous public forums with veterans affected by the harmful “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy in Cleveland and Columbus.  The events, covered by local media, were held at the Cleveland City Hall where Senator George Voinovich cut his political teeth decades ago as Cleveland Mayor, and the Ohio Statehouse where he served as Governor.  Repeal advocates wanted to respectfully remind the Senator that he has bucked the more conservative elements of his party when it was the right thing to do – as it is the right thing to do with repealing this discriminatory law.

In Cleveland, Major General Dennis Laich and Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman were joined by four Ohio veterans who stood up to tell their stories and make their voices heard.  Brian Tupaz, Robert Tackett, Marie Bohousch and Mark Szabo each took to the stage to share publicly their personal experience with DADT.  Their stories serve as a painful reminder of how this law has failed our service members and our country.

Two and a half hours south by southwest, at the Ohio Statehouse, Claudia Mason and David Goetz echoed those in Cleveland and called on Senator Voinovich to publicly declare his support for DADT repeal. They reminded him that he has stood on the side of equality before, voting in favor of the Matthew Shepard/James Byrd Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Act last year, and should honor the 14,000 service members who have been discharged under this discriminatory law by voting to end this law.

Claudia, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel from Dayton, is a straight ally and is outspoken about the importance of repealing this law. She called on Senator Voinovich to join his fellow Buckeye, Senator Sherrod Brown and listen to the recommendation from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary Gates in supporting repeal this year.

Also this week, members of the Columbus steering committee joined Collin and me at the Ohio Democratic Party offices to call repeal supporters and urge them to call on Senator Voinovich to support repeal this year. If you’re a Buckeye, make your voice heard by calling Senator Voinovich at 202.224.3353.

We’ll be putting the pressure on Senator Voinovich and urging him to join the ranks of supportive Republicans like Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this year. Now is the last opportunity for Voinovich to stand on the side of equality. With a vote in the Senate on repeal of DADT expected as early as Saturday morning, Senator Voinovich needs to hear from you NOW!


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Massachusetts Veterans Call on Senator Scott Brown to End DADT

Wow.  I just returned from a great press event hosted by HRC and MassEquality at which three Massachusetts veterans told stories about their service under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and called upon Senator Scott Brown to fulfill his commitment to vote for repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before senators leave for the holidays.

Travis Hengen was discharged from the Army as a Chief Warrant Officer 2 under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” ending a nearly 12-year career as an interrogator and counterintelligence agent.  Over the span of his career, Travis grew increasingly frustrated with listening to fellow soldiers discuss their private lives, all the while being forced to keep his own life a total secret. In June 2002, Travis decided to no longer hide his sexual orientation and came out to his commander, triggering a discharge process that lasted for seven months.  Despite the humiliation of being investigated, Travis never regretted his decision to serve or to be honest about himself.  Since his discharge, Travis has graduated from San Diego State University with distinction with a B.A. in International Security and Conflict Resolution.  Travis currently lives with his husband in Boston where he is completing a M.S. degree in Healthcare Emergency Management at Boston University School of Medicine.

Michael Young is a straight supporter of repeal and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served from 2004 through 2007 with 3rd FAST  Company, Security Force Battalion on missions in the U.S. and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.  FAST (Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team) is a unique unit responsible for guarding government and military targets around the globe whenever they are threatened.

John Affuso enlisted in the Army in 1986 and completed infantry basic training at Fort Benning.  After receiving his commission through the Army ROTC program at Rutgers University, he became a Signal Platoon Leader in the 50th Armored Division of the New Jersey Army National Guard.  John is an Honor Graduate of the US Army Signal Officer Basic Course at Fort Gordon.  After choosing to not re-enlist, in large part due to DADT, he was honorably discharged from the US Army Reserve in the mid 1990’s, having attained the rank of first lieutenant. Like Senator Brown, John is a graduate of Boston College Law School.

When I returned to the office after this event, I was thrilled to see the ABC News report that Senator Brown will support the stand-alone DADT repeal bill.

“Sen. Brown accepts the Pentagon’s recommendation to repeal the policy after proper preparations have been completed. If and when a clean repeal bill comes up for a vote, he will support it,” said Brown spokesperson Gail Gitcho.

Having been in Massachusetts several times this year working with HRC and MassEquality organizers, it’s extremely gratifying to see Senator Brown’s most recent statement.  With just days left in the current session of Congress, the time is now to repeal DADT.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Letter to President Obama on the Stalled VA Policy for Trans Veterans

Transgender American Veteran Association White Paper: Transgender People In The U.S. Military(I felt the need to appeal to the President via E-mail on getting the stalled policy for the proper treatment of trans veterans out of the VA black hole.  The letters I keep getting from trans veterans of their mistreatment have been getting to me for a long time.  I hear they have people reading all E-mails at the WH, but I doubt it will go anywhere.  My phiosphy is that there is no shame in failure, but there is in failure to try.  I had to try.)

Dear Mr. President,

I am the President of the Transgender American Veterans Association, an 8-year organization to help trans veterans with their VA problems.  Trans veterans have been mistreated in the VA for decades, even those with 20 or more years of service.  We did a survey in 2007 and the results are horrible.  You can view it at  http://www.tavausa.org/Survey_Results.html

In 2008, TAVA and NCTE worked with the VA to draft a new policy that would resolve the problems we saw in the survey.  However, the VA has been sitting on it since July of 2008 and no one can tell us why.  We even appealed to Sec. Shinseki and he hasn’t been able to help.  This is a final appeal to someone who may listen and I am hoping you care about veterans still having problems with the VA.

Thumbnail Link: Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA)I know that you have more on your plate than a sumo wrestler in an all-you can eat restaurant, but I received two new stories from trans veterans in the last 24 hrs that made me want to write this.  We have read dozens of similar problems since July of 2008 and the new policy would have helped, but the VA is still allowing the mistreatment to continue unchecked.

I had “hope” that you would treat all veterans with the respect they deserved and you have gone a long way in that manner.  I thank you for that.  But, the job is not anywhere over.  There are still veterans who are treated with disdain and discrimination simply because of the direction their lives took AFTER they served this country.  They fought for this country.  They protected this country and the people in it.  They even bled for this country and gave their limbs for this country.  And yet, the US still treats them like 3rd class citizens.  Is that the right treatment they deserve?

Mr. President, I am begging you to help.  It can’t be any more simpler than that.  Please ask the VA to release that policy, called, “Providing Healthcare for Transgender and Intersex Veterans.”  I did eight years in the Navy, my father was a veteran of three wars, my grandfather was a veteran, my brother and his son are veterans.  My son served 4 years in the Marines and did two tours in Iraq, so you are getting this appeal from a long line of people who have served proudly.  Since TAVA has met with closed doors for 17 months, I felt a need to turn to you for help.  On behalf of the thousands of trans veterans in the US, I ask for your help.  Thank you, Mr. President.

Monica Helms

President, TAVA

~~~~~
Related:
* DADT and the TAVA Survey Revisited
* TAVA And The Palm Center: A Look At Transgender Military And Veteran Experiences

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Massachusetts Veterans Educate Local Students on DADT

Students at Scituate High School organized a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discussion with Massachusetts veterans last night. The event was open to the public and was attend by 50 community members.  After hearing from veterans, attendees made calls to Senator Scott Brown urging him to follow through this year on his promise to repeal DADT.

Travis Hengen spoke at the event about his experience as a gay veteran discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.  Travis said that the law needs to be repealed so “troops serving in Iraq don’t have to worry about using the wrong pronoun when talking about their relationships back home and can focus completely on the mission at hand.”

John Affuso, who also served under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” commented on Senator Scott Brown’s recent statement supporting repeal.  “It was great to see Senator Brown endorse repeal,” said Affuso, “but we really need to see him show some leadership and make sure this comes up for a vote this year.”

Caroline McCall, a student at Scituate HS and one of the event’s organizers, said “We felt that since this issue is such a pressing issue, we wanted to plan this event to help inform the community and show that so many people care about making sure we do right by our troops by honoring and supporting everyone that wants to serve.”

In anticipation of a Senate vote on the Defense bill, volunteers at MassEquality’s headquarters in Boston have been mobilizing pro-repeal veterans to contact Senator Brown’s Boston and D.C. offices.  You can read a Bay Windows article about this work here.

If you are in Massachusetts and want to get involved, contact me at karl.bach@hrc.org.  And no matter where you live, find out about actions you can take TODAY at www.hrc.org/repealDADT.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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Virginia Veterans Speak Out for Repeal

The following is from HRC Field Organizer Sarah Showalter:

On Wednesday, Virginia veterans called on Senators Webb and Warner to vote in favor of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal at a community forum at the Five Points Community Farm Market in Norfolk. The forum followed the release of the Pentagon’s study, which shows that the majority of our military service members have no problem with gays and lesbians serving openly.

Veteran Gary Crouse shared his story of having to hide his identity during his time in the Navy.  “As a free society, asking someone to hide who they are is ridiculous.”  He said that repeal of the law will make the military stronger, by allowing LGB service members to concentrate on their jobs without worrying about being fired.  Fellow United States Navy veteran, David Crandall, spoke about his experience as a part of the human resources team that added 50 women to his crew. “The military has historically led the country on integration of minorities of race and gender. This is no different. It needs to be done now.” Speakers at the forum stressed that during combat situations they never cared about the sexual orientation of the person next to them.  They only cared that everyone knew how to do the job.  These stories from veterans, along with the positive results of the study, show that the time for repeal is now.

If you are a family member of a veteran or active duty service member from Virginia, please call Senator Webb’s office today at 202-224-4024 and ask him to put aside politics and pass the National Defense Authorization Act with language that repeals “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

To get involved in our DADT efforts in Virginia, please call Sarah Showalter at 804-283-5435 or email me at sarah.showalter@hrc.org. Time is short. We need your help.


Human Rights Campaign | HRC Back Story

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