All of Me
Several weeks ago I started putting together everything I thought might be necessary to get a new military ID card as a member of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Much of the groundwork had already been done because I am a DoD contractor on base. Just in case, though, I put together all of my name and gender change paperwork in a folder, and brought a fistful of IDs with my new name and gender on them.
The other aspect of this operation was wearing a uniform for the photo ID. I dug out a flight suit, and my boots still buffed to a high gloss when I pulled them from of the steamer chest in the basement. I also ordered a new black leather name tag from from the Navy exchange online to complete the ensemble. When it finally came in the mail, I couldn’t help but feel a thrill seeing my new name embossed just beneath the hard-won wings of gold.
After the name-tag came I tried the whole thing on to make sure everything fit, and that I met standards for how to wear my hair in uniform. When I looked in the full length mirror in our bedroom, I was completely unprepared for how I felt. The wind was literally knocked out of me; I had to sit down on the edge of the bed and take a few deep breaths, and wipe away a tear. For the first time in my life, I had seen two parts of myself together that I had desperately tried to keep separated previously.
A professor of my partner had once remarked in class that the only people who know at the age of six exactly what they will be when they grow up are pilots. He was right. I knew I was supposed to be a pilot before I knew I was supposed to be female. When I did figure out the latter, I knew that I couldn’t be both. “Those people” don’t get to fly military aircraft. So I mentally partitioned myself, and dedicated every moment of my life to becoming a pilot, while denying the need to be myself in other ways. In the end, one won out over the other; but not without the struggle between the two nearly destroying me and my family in the process.
The policy of exclusion created more victims than just me. I have a spouse who is still coming to grips with the full extent of the consequences of this transition. There are three children now living in a non-traditional household in the reddest part of Ohio. There is guilt that my son won’t have a father, and my daughter will have two mothers walk her down the aisle. The effects of this policy ripple outward from me like a concrete slab heaved into a pond.
I had my spouse take a picture of me as I left the next to go take care of business at the personnel office. We posted online it later in the day. My brother saw it and astutely caught on to how I was feeling, just by looking at the picture. He wrote, “Strangely, though I identify the uniform more with Bryan, this is the first photo where I see more of Brynn than the old you.”
I think it is because it was the first time he has seen all of me at once. It was my first time too. Sadly, I know that though both halves are in the picture, they are not really as close as they appear. It was just for a picture on an ID, hardly better than playing dress-up. I don’t hold any real hope I’ll ever sit in a cockpit again.
A week later, I was watching the Democratic National Convention on TV. Representative Tammy Baldwin, who stands to become the nation’s first openly lesbian or gay senator, was praising President Obama’s accomplishments. “He repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so that no American ever again has to lie about who they are in order to serve the country we love.” I felt a pang, and sighed.
If only it were true.