Skirting the Issues: Allies

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I’ve written before about how transgender folks (and yes, even the great Ellie Krug!) need allies, particularly those who engage in “allyship”—the action part of being an ally.

“Action” as in, “Hey dude, you just misgendered her. You should go apologize.”

Frankly, I never thought I’d see the day when Republican leaders like John McCain and Lindsey Graham would stand up for transgender persons. But indeed, this is precisely what’s happened in response to President Trump’s now infamous tweet banning trans people from the military.

John McCain is a hero of mine, in no small part because he acted with great valor after becoming a POW during the Vietnam war. (Most may not know that McCain passed on an early release from a North Vietnamese prison because other pilots who’d been prisoner longer deserved to return home before him.)

McCain became even more of a hero when he said in late July, “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.”

Even Lindsey Graham, not usually a fan of the GLBT community, went on record as saying, “The commander in chief has a lot of latitude here. I don’t know what the policy proposal is. I don’t know why he decided what he did. But I think the right thing to do here is to have a hearing so we can hear from both sides.”

It’s not often that an elected official from South Carolina would want to hear from a transgender person on any topic, let alone their right to serve in the military.

And then there are actual military leaders weighing in to support trans troops. The commanding admiral of the U.S. Coast Guard personally telephoned each “out” transgender Coast Guard service member to offer his support. As reported by Fox News, Admiral Paul Zukunft said, “I will not turn my back…We have made an investment in you, and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith.”

James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general and the current Secretary of Defense, has now instituted a six-month study to determine how to implement the transgender troop ban. Some say that this delay is a sign of his disagreement with the President’s decision.

Shifting to non-military transgender humans in general, I was pleased by the number of reader-allies who wrote in response to my July column, “Lemonade,” in which I proposed convening an event to foster better communication between the respective letters of the GLBT alphabet. Although I didn’t hear from anyone with a venue or forum to host such an event, I’ve not given up on the idea.

I also recently spoke to a cisgender woman lawyer who had befriended a transgender female law student in another state. The lawyer took it upon herself to provide suggestions (and multiple shopping trips plus a makeover) on how the trans law student could dress and present more professionally. Even more incredibly, the lawyer arranged for the law student to practice job interviewing with several law firms. Ultimately, the law student snagged a nice legal job.

Finally, there’s one last local ally that I need to recognize: Debra Thorp, an OB-GYN who’s been my doctor ever since I transitioned genders in 2009.

When it comes to true allyship, Dr. Deb is hands down one of the best because of her work to create a transgender clinic at Park Nicollet’s Blaisdell Avenue facility. This happened in the 2000s, when trans people were far less accepted.

To create that clinic, Dr. Deb needed to convince management that it would be alright for trans men and women to sit alongside pregnant and cisgender women in the waiting room. Even more, she ensured that clinic staff were trans-friendly and pronoun proper, no small task.

On top of that, Dr. Deb’s bedside manner is off-the-charts wonderful. She never looks at the clock and is genuinely interested in what’s going on in your life (in addition to what’s going on between your legs).

As I’ve said many times, Dr. Deb’s courage and persistence in protecting transgender humans have undoubtedly saved the lives of many—perhaps hundreds—of trans folks. She’s been there for us at times when very few were.

Anyone looking for a recipient of an award?

Think Dr. Deb.

Thanks to everyone who has my community’s collective back. I am very grateful!

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Ellen (Ellie) Krug is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (2013). She speaks and trains on diversity and inclusion topics; visit www.elliekrug.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter. She welcomes your comments at [email protected].

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