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OutServe Magazine | April 19, 2014

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A Time for Listening

A Time for Listening
OutServeMag

“I listened to three very courageous women, veterans, tell us what it was like to be transgender in AND out of uniform.”
(Left to Right: Army veteran Kelly-Jeanne Pyne, and Navy veterans Brynn Tannehill & Paula Neira)

OutServe Blog Readers,

On October 25th and 26th, I was privileged to witness history in the LGBT community as Allyson Robinson became the first transgender woman to take the reigns of a national LGBT organization. Her confidence is inspiring, her enthusiasm infectious, and her smile enough to brighten the darkest of days.

What I came away with over the course of those two days didn’t center on Allyson, however. As amazing as OutServe-SLDN’s historic decision was, in appointing her, it paled in comparison to the feat that was happening at the exact same time.

This year also marked the first time an LGBT military-centered conference took place at a resort that is reserved for military personnel and their families. It included presentations on getting married in base chapels, LGBT access to military healthcare providers, education on transgender issues, Chaplaincy and LGBT military personnel, and several other fascinating topics.

All of this happened… at a resort on Walt Disney World… in the open. No hard partying, no raucous carousing or debauchery.  It was military members (U.S. and allies), veterans, supporters, family members, and sponsors, all gathered in one place to learn from each other, and commit to moving forward on the path to full equality in uniform.

And how did I spend the weekend? Was it going to the parks? Hitting the Orlando clubs? Drinking at the bar? No. I didn’t leave the hotel once. I stayed on site from the time I arrived until the morning I left… and I spent two days listening.

I listened to two very brave men share their story of getting one partner’s PTSD under control. I listened to three very courageous women, veterans, tell us what it was like to be transgender in AND out of uniform. I listened to two inspiring men tell the story of how their marriage at a base chapel came to pass. I listened to a Navy Reserve Ensign deliver the preliminary results of a study on how LGBT healthcare was affected by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. I heard a coalition of LGBT military families presents results from their own study on how their members were affected by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and their attitudes on mental healthcare in uniform.

…And those were just the sessions that were formally presented.

In between, I talked to straight allies, active and reserve LGBT vets, and sponsors who were formerly in the service.

I listened more than I have in a long time and the stories were overwhelming. It was too much to take in all at once, but I couldn’t get enough.

As the Blog Editor for OutServe Magazine, it has been my goal to find these kinds of stories to share with you. Stories that will move you, and make you think about old issues in old ways. After this weekend, I’m confident that these stories are plentiful and I pledge to continue striving for this.

In the meantime, I want to personally thank you for reading the blogs, sharing them, and being a part of the conversation.

Jeremy Johnson -
OutServe Magazine Blog Editor