Pentagon Announces New Policies Allowing Open Trans Military Service

The Pentagon covered by an image of the transgender pride flag
Timed to coincide with the Transgender Day of Visibility, the Pentagon has announced its reversal of Trump-era policies which effectively banned transgender Americans from serving in the military.

The Associated Press reports the new department regulations “allow transgender people who meet military standards to enlist and serve openly in their self-identified gender, and they will be able to get medically necessary transition-related care authorized by law.”

More from the AP:

The changes come after a two-month Pentagon review aimed at developing guidelines for the new policy, which was announced by President Joe Biden just days after he took office in January.

Biden’s executive order overturned the Trump policy and immediately prohibited any service member from being forced out of the military on the basis of gender identity. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin then gave the Pentagon two months to finalize the more detailed regulations that the military services will follow.

The new rules also prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.

A review of service members who were discharged or denied reenlistment because of gender identity issues under the previous policy has also been ordered.

Read the full report here.

Openly Gay Marine Veteran Heading To Runoff Race for Alabama State House

Former Marine Neil Rafferty almost avoided a runoff in the race for the House District 54 seat to replace Patricia Todd in the Alabama State Legislature this past Tuesday.  Rafferty, who is openly gay, won 48% of the votes in his district.  He will face-off against environmentalist Jacqueline Gray Miller who garnered 28% of the vote.
Neil Rafferty

Former Marine Neil Rafferty almost avoided a runoff in the race for the House District 54 seat to replace Patricia Todd in the Alabama State Legislature this past Tuesday.

Rafferty, who is openly gay, won 48% of the votes in his district. You have to cross the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff.

He will face-off against environmentalist Jacqueline Gray Miller who garnered 28% of the vote.

Both are Democrats – no Republicans contended for the state House seat.

Rafferty was endorsed by Todd, who announced her retirement earlier this year. She was the first openly gay lawmaker in Alabama.

The Birmingham native spent four years in the U.S. Marines before returning home to earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Rafferty currently works as the director of research and development at Birmingham AIDS Outreach.

The runoff is set for July 17.

(source)

First-Ever LGBT Military “Spouse Of The Year” On ELLEN

Matthew and Brian Alvarado with Ellen DeGeneres

Now this is way-super-cool news.

For the first-time ever, a same-sex spouse has been named “Navy Spouse of the Year.”

Named Armed Forces Insurance’s “Navy Spouse of the Year,” Brian Alvarado is husband to U.S. Navy servicemember Matthew Alvarado. Brian is the first same-sex spouse named as a branch winner in the program’s 11-year history.

Thanks to that honor, Ellen welcomed Matthew and Brian Alvarado on her show today.

The Dallas Voice has more details:

According to a press releases from Armed Forces Insurance and Military Spouse magazine, “As a male military spouse in a same-sex, interracial marriage, Alvarado’s recognition illustrates to the world that our military community is a strong, supportive, diverse and resilient community. Like other branch winners, he was nominated for his work in the community as a U.S. naval ombudsman at Fleet Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Center and volunteer work with Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network.

“In his role as an ombudsman, he reports to the command leadership and acts as a liaison between the command and the families of the sailors who serve on base. He is also very passionate about his work with Hiring Our Heroes, working to improve the nationwide 16 percent unemployment rate within the military spouse community both on a local and national level.”

The press release notes that Alvarado was named the 2016 Naval Base Coronado Base Spouse of the Year, and has since “lead the conversation on equality within the military community and looks to further promote the Department of Defense’s Equality Initiatives.”

The Alvarados are stationed at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego. Matthew is a 19-year veteran of the Navy.

Brian tells Ellen in the video below that his main focus is working with Hiring Our Heroes which works to help veterans and transitioning military members find work in the civilian workplace.

As part of honoring Brian and Matthew, Ellen donated $10,000 to Hiring Our Heroes.

Brian also shares that Ellen publicly came out during his senior year in high school, and so her visibility as an out and proud lesbian has been an inspiration to him his entire adult life.

Watch below.

90-Year-Old Lesbian Finally Receives Honorable Discharge From Air Force 62 Years Later

Image via Helen Grace James

In 1952, Helen Grace James joined the Air Force as a radio operator to serve the country she loves.

But while stationed at Roslyn Air Force Base in New York, she came under suspicion of being lesbian. She soon realized she was being followed by the Office of Special Investigations.

And on a cold winter night in 1955, her 3 years of impeccable service came to an end. She was arrested, interrogated and forced to sign a document under threat of being outed to her family.

She was discharged from the Air Force as “undesirable.” That left her unemployed and unable to even utilize the G.I. bill for education.

She couldn’t even apply for insurance through USAA.

She was a victim of what could to be known as “the Lavender Scare.”

But this week, 90-year-old Helen received extra-special good news.

From NBC News today:

A FedEx delivery arrived at Helen Grace James’ door on Wednesday. It was a message from the U.S. Air Force. She called two of her closest friends to come be with her before she opened it, and they arrived 20 minutes later.

Once she opened it, she received the good news: The military had upgraded her discharge status to “honorable.” James had been waiting for this for more than six decades.

“I’m still trying to process it,” she told NBC News. “It was both joy and shock. It was really true. It was really going to be an ‘honorable discharge.'”

For James, now 90, it has been a long journey to this moment of vindication. “It’s hard to take in,” she said. “I’m wondering if I’m in a dream or a wish.”

The change in status was prompted by a lawsuit filed by James earlier this month.

She won’t receive the official paperwork for a few weeks, but she tells NBC News she can wait a little bit longer.

“The Air Force recognizes me as a full person in the military,” she said, having done “my job helping to take care of the country I love.”

LGBT Pride Celebrations Aboard The USS Ronald Reagan

With all the Pride pics we’ve seen over the past few weeks, here’s a couple that are really quite remarkable and wonderful.

From the Navy Office of Community Outreach, I received these pics from Pride celebrations held onboard the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which has a crew of nearly 6,000.

Top: PHILIPPINE SEA (June 25, 2016) Lt. Jon Fujiwara, from Westminster, Colorado, speaks to Sailors about being proud of who they are as individuals during a pride month observance event in the aft mess decks aboard the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). “It’s awesome to see everyone come out and support the community, and it was an awesome event,” said Fujiwara. The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jamaal Liddell/Released)

Bottom: PHILIPPINE SEA (June 25, 2016) Yeoman 2nd Class (SW/AW) Elexis Rogers, from Jacksonville, Florida, sings the National Anthem during a pride month observance ceremony organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Supporting Sailors (G.L.A.S.S.) association on the aft mess decks aboard the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). The G.L.A.S.S. association organizes events for the ship including fundraisers, community relations projects and morale building events. The USS Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jamaal Liddell/Released)

Both were accompanied by the following:

On our planet, more than 70 percent of which is covered by water, being there means having the ability to act from the sea. The Navy is uniquely positioned to be there; the world’s oceans give the Navy the power to protect America’s interests anywhere, and at any time. Your Navy protects and defends America on the world’s oceans. Navy ships, submarines, aircraft and, most importantly, tens of thousands of America’s finest young men and women are deployed around the world doing just that. They are there now. They will be there when we are sleeping tonight. They will be there every Saturday, Sunday and holiday this year. They are there around the clock, far from our shores, defending America at all times.

Thank you very much for your support of the men and women in U.S. Navy, deployed around the clock and ready to protect and defend America on the world’s oceans.

Senate Armed Services Committee Approves Eric Fanning For Army Secretary

A U.S. Senate committee has advance Eric Fanning that much closer to becoming the first openly gay civilian to lead a U.S. military service by approving his nomination as Army secretary.

From The Washington Blade:

The Senate Armed Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over Fanning’s nomination, approved the nomination by voice vote nearly six months after President Obama announced his choice of Fanning as the next Army secretary.

The committee approves the nomination after it held a confirmation hearing for Fanning in January that went smoothly for the nominee. No member of the committee asked Fanning a question about his sexual orientation or objected to having an openly gay Army secretary.

Although the committee has approved the nomination, Fanning faces difficulties in obtaining confirmation by the full Senate. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) has placed a hold on the nomination, citing comments President Obama made about closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. A Roberts spokesperson told the Blade on Thursday the hold remains in place.

Gay Military Couple’s Wedding Kiss Goes Viral

From News-leader.com:

Spc. Shane Adriano and Pfc. Tristian Resz chose the Greene County Courthouse as a venue because they wanted something small and intimate for their Feb. 11 wedding. It was to be just the happy couple, a few supportive friends and a judge.

But after they shared their “first married kiss” photo on Facebook, their small ceremony turned into a worldwide event.

The American Military Partner Association posted the photo a few hours after the wedding. As of Monday morning, that post has been shared 800 times, has almost 4,400 likes and more than 215 comments.

Adriano told the News-Leader they have long since lost track of how many times the photo has been shared.

“It just keeps getting reshared,” he said. “We had a little bit of negative comments on there, but I wasn’t even expecting that many people to like it and share it over and over again.”

Out Singer/Songwriter Steve Grand Accepts Invitation To U.S. Marines Corp Ball

Steve Grand is angry LGBT media outlets are focusing on shirtless or nearly nude photos he posed for rather than his music

I recently wrote about Tanner White, an openly gay HIV+ U.S. Marine who invited hunky out singer/songwriter Steve Grand to the upcoming annual Marine Corp Ball in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“This video is for the all-American boy, Steve Grand. Steve, you are an amazing singer. I’ve seen some of your blog videos and they were awesome. I would like for you to go with me to the 2015 Marine Corps ball In November Hosted in Wilmington, North Carolina as my date. Hopefully you say yes. If not, it was worth a shot.”

Today – Grand accepted the invite via video!

Sweet little moment on the interwebs 🙂

Pentagon To End Transgender Ban May 2016

USA TODAY is reporting on a proposal that would end the ban on transgender military personnel by May 27, 2016.

The move could affect about 12,000 troops.

The memo, circulated last week among top personnel and medical officials, lays out the road map for ending the policy and highlights some of the potential issues, including a pilot program that would provide leaves of absences for transgender troops being treated with hormones or having surgery.

Meanwhile, Army and the Air Force leaders know for sure of about 20 transgender troops in each service, according to a Defense Department official familiar with the issue who spoke on condition of anonymity because officials were not authorized to speak publicly. The condition of gender dysphoria disqualifies them from service under current policy, but a de facto moratorium on dismissals was enacted last month by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Carter ordered a six-month review of the issues surrounding transgender troops with the assumption that they can serve openly unless “objective, practical impediments are identified,” the Aug. 19 memo says. During that period, one of Carter’s chief deputies would have to approve any request to discharge transgender troops.

The memo details a list of issues surrounding the open service of transgender troops, including medical treatment, housing, uniforms and physical fitness standards.

Military leaders are also looking at reconsidering the discharge status of transgender troops who may have been kicked out in recent years. A change from dishonorable to honorable discharge would affect veterans benefits.