Hiding Behind the Mask
A new name and a new beginning is where I thought I began my journey. Along the way, I realized that sacrificing my honor was not worth the facade I built. I found a way out and was nearly ousted for following my true self.
My true story begins on my medical retirement date after 15 years of honorable service. Throughout my career, I won awards and received high marks for my dedicated and exceptional work. However, that was not enough to shield me from scrutiny.
I have been the subject of two investigations; each desperate attempts by my commands to sabotage my career prior to the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). I’ve sat in a room with an investigator, a blank sheet of paper, and a pen while he pressured me to give up names of friends that I knew were gay.
My command has searched through my medical records, looking for proof of me being transgender.
They found nothing definitive.
Being forced to live my life behind a mask left me frustrated with the military. I have faced harassment at every level of my career; a Drill Sergeant trying to take advantage of me in basic training, a First Sergeant forcing himself on me as a lower enlisted, a different homophobic First Sergeant going on a crusade to have me kicked out for being gay, and a Lieutenant Colonel bent on proving that I was transgender.
I have survived them all.
For me, there was no outlet to confide my secrets. Fear of repercussion sealed my lips. Today, there is a network of LGBT soldiers and allies to confide my frustration. OutServe-SLDN provides a much needed support system. I never trusted anyone during my military career, even psychiatrists or psychologists. Therapy simply proved that I had anxiety and depression, but the real reasons were never revealed.
Now that I am retired I feel a tremendous weight lifted from my shoulders. I can be who I truly am and more importantly, I no longer have to hide my family. As a single soldier, it was much easier to hide my feelings and blend in. Having children with my partner brought a whole other level to hiding who I am.
I felt like even more of an outcast after a year of my secret transition to becoming male. It’s not just me that suffered though. My children did as well. I chose to live far away from the military community in order to distance myself from prying eyes. At home, my neighbors have no clue that I was born a female. My children are young and un-prejudiced enough that they accept me unconditionally.
Since starting testosterone my voice has dropped. With it, my children wanted to change from calling me Mommy to calling me Daddy. For them, it was a logical transition. I have a boy brain, and doctors are helping me have a boy outside. After a year into hormone replacement therapy, daddy is a natural designation for them. Unfortunately with that change, I didn’t dare bring my kids anywhere near the military. I avoided any military functions where family participation was encouraged. Shopping at the commissary or post exchange with my kids was not an option. The simple word “Daddy” could have jeopardized my entire career.
I left my life at the gate every day when I came to work. The current policies on transgender individuals affected my career and my military family. Since I chose to stay away, I missed opportunities to build cohesiveness with my unit. Transgender discrimination hurt not only me and my family, but it also hurt my military team.
The cohesion that is built between soldiers in everyday tasks depends upon honesty and openness. It binds an organization together to function as a unified and integrated unit. When parts of that organization were suppressed and I was not allowed to share significant parts of my life, a distance was formed. I never felt as if I was part of the military family. I didn’t feel as if I could count on my fellow soldiers to back me up if I ever came out.
There is no regulation that requires one to go to military functions; however, forming a bond between soldiers is what makes a military family. I never allowed myself to form that bond for fear of being outed as either a lesbian or now as a trans man. Bringing my partner to military events would bring unneeded scrutiny to my personal life before DADT. Lifting DADT allows me to bring my partner to events, but I still am trapped behind my mask. This mask fades every step I make through transition, and I am lucky enough to have found the door to this closet.
About the Author: Evan Young is originally from Little Rock, Ark. He graduated basic training in 1989, transitioned from a sergeant to lieutenant in 1998, and rose to the rank of Major before retiring. In 1998, Evan graduated from Northwestern State University of Louisiana with a B.A. in English. From there, he continued his studies while on Active Duty and graduated from Nova Southeastern University in Florida with a M.S. in Computer Information Management. He earned his public affairs credentials in 2004 and broadcasting management credentials in 2007. He served in the Reserves, Guard, and Active Duty. He was the Hawaii National Guard Public Affairs officer and a Media Officer at NORAD and US NORTHCOM. Evan began transition in 2011. He retired from the Army as a Major in 2013. Since then he began his own web development company and has written for OutServe Magazine as a blogger. Evan and his partner currently live in Spring Lake, Mich., with their two children.