5 LGBTQ Veterans who made impacts in the World
It’s Veterans Day here in the US, or Armistice Day in Europe, and it’s a day to remember those who fought and/or died for our freedoms around the world – and one of those freedoms was the right to love who we were born to love.
Sadly, many veterans in the past were forced to hide who they were, but as the times have changed, so has the level of acceptance for LGBTQ and other sexual minority veterans. Though the fight is not nearly over.
So in honor of those who fought for us, often without the ability to be who they truly were, here’s a short list of those we should remember today.
1. Dan Choi
A former American infantry officer in the United States Army, Choi served in the Iraq war from 2006-7. He became a of face for LGBTQ veterans after he came out on the Rachael Maddow show in 2009. Watch the clip below:
Choi went on to be a strong activist for LGBT veterans, going as far as getting arrested for chaining himself to the gates of of the White House in 2010. This followed a number of powerful acts including a hunger strike and additional chaining to the White House.
By the end of 2010, a Federal Judge ordered the Department of Defense to stop enforcing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and Choi re-enlisted shortly there after.
2. Kristen Beck
A 20-year veteran of the Navy Seals, Beck came out after her service in a memoir, Warrior Princess, describing both her times in war as well as her transition. Beck’s story gained national attention and has been thought to be part of the reason the DOD has begun to re-examine their policy on Transgender service men and women.
Here’s Beck’s interview from the Today Show shortly after coming out.
Sadly, Becks work was just the start in an ongoing struggle for trans-rights in the armed forces in the US. There is still a ban on openly-trans folks in the service, even as people try and change the policy.
3. Chelsea Manning
Assigned in 2009 as an intelligence analyst to an Army unit in Iraq, Manning went on to leak the largest collections of classified military data in history, including several videos showing US troops firing on civilians. The leak was traced back to Manning who has since been held in the Marine Corpse Brig at Quantico. He faces 22 charges including aiding the enemy which carries the death sentence.
Some have gone as far as to say Manning’s leak lead to the Arab Spring, the series of uprisings throughout the Middle East, while others have condemned the act as treason.
Manning came out as transgender after she was put in the military prison and has since sued the federal government for the right to female grooming habits, and for access to hormone treatments.
4. Miriam Ben-Shalom
A former Staff Sergeant in the United States Army, Miriam Ben-Shalom made headlines in the late 70′s when she was discharged from the service for being a lesbian. Ben-Shalom fought the discharge and was allowed to return to service in 1988 where she served two more years.
She has upheld her activism since her first discharge, check her out chained to a White House fence as part of a demonstration against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in late 2010:
Ben-Shalom made her biggest impact for LGBTQ members of the armed forces when she started American Veterans for Equal Rights in 1990. AVER has gone on to become a voice for active and former military members, fighting for equal protections and access to benefits.
5. Alan Turing
While not a US veteran, Alan Turing is considered to be the man who turned the tide in World War II, and he was also openly gay. Turing’s work with early artificial intelligence, essentially inventing the first computer. Turing’s work with early computers lead him to being brought in by the UK to help crack the Nazi code machine, Enigma.
Even with his work saving the free world, Turing was charged with ‘gross indecency’ for being openly gay. He was chemically castrated and later took his own life.
While technically not a veteran, Turing is a classic example of the mistreatment LGBTQ folks faced in our recent past, and his work in World War II made him indispensable to the war effort.
Turing was pardoned by the Queen of England in 2013, one of only four people to receive such an honor since 1945. The British government agreed to the pardon considering the “exceptional nature of Alan Turing’s achievements.”
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