War Journal: Trans & Deployed
By Keith Thompson
I choose to go by Keith. It isn’t my real name, but a pseudonym I selected to protect my identity. I am a female-to-male transgender Soldier, currently stationed in Afghanistan. At home, I am married to my wife—the most supportive person that I know. Nobody in Afghanistan knows I am trans, and I prefer to keep it that way, for obvious reasons.
The command climate in my unit during pre-deployment was harsh for me. The Soldiers in my unit think that I am a lesbian, serving openly and proudly. They do not know I am trans. I have never had an issue with any of my immediate colleagues about my sexual orientation. Just before we deployed, however, we received a new “butter bar” in our ranks. I started to feel that I was treated differently from the rest of the crew, chosen for the jobs nobody really wanted. Most of all, I could tell that this officer had a huge issue with me. Whenever I attempted conversation with her, she would ignore me.
I was lucky that a few of my colleagues witnessed this treatment and agreed to write statements on my behalf. With their help, a complaint was filed with the company’s equal opportunity representative. Because of this investigation, this officer was not allowed to deploy with our unit, which was a relief. When I deployed to Afghanistan, I was nervous after the incident, but now feel accepted with open arms.
When the colonel came to visit our company while on a mission, I was asked about my family and my life at home. I looked at my first sergeant, who nodded her approval, and I spoke freely about my wife. I was rather surprised the colonel seemed interested. My superiors had genuine and honest curiosity about my home life.
The base here has an OutServe chapter, but I haven’t been to any of the gatherings. I feel guilty, but I mostly pass the time with three online college courses, and something about discussing LGBT issues openly in military groups still makes me hesitant. That nervousness has kept me from getting involved in OutServe here, at least for now.
I have made some small strides in this regard, however. I spoke candidly with my lieutenant about some LGBT news—what I thought about marching in uniform during the San Diego Pride. While I was happy that many of the LGB community were able to march in the parade, I told him I thought the uniforms were overdoing it. We also talked about astronaut Sally Ride upon hearing the sad news of her passing. We talked about how she and her partner had been together for nearly 30 years, and we discussed how iconic this woman was in our country. It isn’t easy being LGBT in the military, but it was nice to have an open conversation like this with an officer.
Stay tuned for more updates from Keith during the course of his deployment.