As freshman in college I bugged out in my second semester and joined the United States Air Force. You see all my life I had wanted to be an astronaut. With memories of “The Right Stuff” in my head, I thought the Air Force was the easy way to my goal. For the record, I was an intelligent idiot – I should have finished college first, but I was impatient and if the truth be known I was just plain tired of school and punching a clock and I was ready for a change.
If you don’t know me personally, I am male to female transsexual. I was at that time too. I was just hiding it. Joining the armed services is also one of the activities that male to female transsexuals engage in. We do this with the belief that it will help us “man up” and ditch that “girly-girl” deep inside us. This is similar in reason to why I played football in midde school.
Basic training wasn’t easy for me – physically, but mentally it was no challenge at all. The Drill instructors couldn’t yell half as loud as my Dad and they were only half as mean about it too! Tech School, however, was very challenging. I moved from Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX to Lowry AFB in Denver, CO.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the work but several months of classroom training in component level electronics repair followed by component level troubleshooting and theory for Space Systems Communications and encryption was hard. True to myself I graduated Space Systems with the highest class average of any student to that point: 103%.
Because of my class rank I was given the most sought after gravy-job there was. A new unit was starting at Buckly Air National Guard. They were deploying satellites for a new technology that would help a soldier determine where they were in the field using satellite triangulation. Today, we call this GPS. At the time only half a dozen satellites had been deployed but dozens more where in the works and Buckly was to be command central.
Are you kidding me? I didn’t want to go there. It was just up the road. I wouldn’t even get to move out of the apartment I was in at the time. Even worse, the job only required a secret clearance – everyone can get that. No, I wanted something more – something Top Secret. Another girl in my unit was being stationed in Alamagordo, NM at Holloman AFB. This is where the White Sands Missile Range is located. This is ever so close to Roswell, NM. This is the very base that had reported UFOs at the back gate. This is the base with the primate research facility that was put on the big screen in the movie “Project X” with Matthew Broderick. This is where the first atomic explosion occurred. To top it off it was Secret – I mean Top Secret. Not just Top Secret, but really, really Top Secret. I traded with this girl and was on my way to the land of UFOs!
Am I an idot? Yes.
Anyway, back to the secret. My particular unit was so top secret that we were not allowed to wear unit or command patches: only our name and rank. No one, I mean no one knew what went on inside our small compound. If you’ve ever seen the movie “War Games” or watched “Star Gate” then you are familiar with Cheyenne Mountain and NORAD. Well, that’s a fixed target. All that stuff you saw inside the mountain was also embedded in 6 semi-tractor trailers. It was my job to maintain the electronic components in that trailer. Did I mention these units were radiation resistant and had a RED PHONE? I never did quite understand why it was so secret, but click on my DD214 above to enlarge it and look at line 8.a. “Data Masker [sic]” – supposed to be data masked. Even during my discharge they didn’t report where I worked.
As it would happen, everyone had to go through a rigorous background investigation which includes personal interviews with friends, family, and employers. In addition, all of your medical records were subject to review. I have no idea if it is true or if someone was pulling my leg, but at the time, I was told the average cost of the investigation was $60,000 per applicant. So when they found that I had seen a counselor for gender issues while at Air Force tech school, the game was over. They started my discharge. For several months I was removed from my duty and placed in a dorm to provide janitorial services until my discharge was complete. I went from #1 all the way to the bottom.
What’s funny is, if I hadn’t switched assignments, they would have never found out because I already had Secret clearance and wasn’t subject to further review.
If you enlarge the DD214 you will see a few things: line 13, National Defense Service Medal for Operation Desert Storm. Line 4.b where they typed in my rank incorrectly – I was an E3, line 24 which shows an Honorable Discharge, but my favorite is line 28. This one line has caused me enumerable counts of embarrassment. It has also prevented me from securing employment more than once: “Conditions That Interfere With Military Service – Not Disability – MENTAL DISORDERS – No Board Entitlement”.
I did give 100%. Hell, I gave 103%. Not only did they kick me out when I was doing something that I loved, it was the closest I had ever gotten to NASA (I worked for Space Command), but they had to shame me forever as well.
This is what Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) does to our military. It makes sure that we don’t always have the best and brightest. While DADT was before my discharge, well qualified service men and women are discharged every day for being gay. Unfortunately, even if DADT is repelled it will not affect transgender soldiers. We will forever be barred from service.
For those that are interested, my unit used to be called the 4th Satellite Communications Squadron. It has since changed names and emblems.