.
June 7th, 2013
09:25 AM ET

Former Navy SEAL comes out as transgender: 'I want some happiness'

By Chuck Hadad, Susan Chuan and Dana Ford, CNN

(CNN) - After years spent fighting in some of the world's worst wars, former U.S. Navy SEAL Kristin Beck says she knows what she wants.

"I want to have my life," she told CNN's "AC360" in an exclusive Thursday night.

"I fought for 20 years for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I want some happiness."

Beck recently came out as transgender.

She wrote about the experience in a book, "Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL's Journey to Coming out Transgender."

Trapped in a man's body

It chronicles her life as a young boy and man, known then as Chris Beck.

Beck deployed 13 times, serving in places such as Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq. She earned a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart along the way.

Though she's felt trapped in the wrong body since grade school, Beck didn't come out until after she left the military in 2011.

Doing so earlier would have been too big a risk.

Transgender men and women are banned from service.

"That's a chance that if I took it, I might be dead today," she said.

"There's a lot of prejudice out there. There's been a lot of transgender people who are killed for prejudice, for hatred. When the book came out - some amazing support and some amazing praises - but also some pretty amazing bigotry and hatred."

Beck says she doesn't need people to love, or even like, her.

"But I don't want you to beat me up and kill me. You don't have to like me, I don't care. But please don't kill me."

FULL STORY

Filed under: Gender • How we look • Military
First transgender veteran has military documents changed
May 30th, 2013
10:19 AM ET

First transgender veteran has military documents changed

By Michael Chen, KGTV

(KGTV) – It's a first in the history of the military, as the Pentagon officially recognized a local Navy veteran's change of gender.

Born a male, Autumn Sandeen said as a teen, she identified as a female.

She joined the Navy, lived as male and kept her secret for two decades before retiring.

"If I would have been myself, I would have been kicked out," said Sandeen.

According to military guidelines, gender identity issues are a mental disorder and detrimental to good order and discipline.

In 2011, as the ban on gays and lesbians was lifted, the transgender ban remained.

"The best way to explain it is I felt like a bridesmaid, never a bride," said Sandeen.

Twenty months later, a step down the aisle toward acceptance.

"I felt tremendous, like I accomplished something, not just himself, but for the broader transgender community," said Sandeen. FULL POST

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Filed under: History • How we live • Military • Sexual orientation • Veterans
100 faces, 100 hours
May 27th, 2013
12:34 PM ET

100 faces, 100 hours

(CNN) - As the U.S. observes Memorial Day, CNN is honoring the fallen by spotlighting a U.S. casualty from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars every hour on the CNN.com homepage through the weekend and the holiday. They're from every state and from every branch of the U.S. military. They're 18 years old and 60; they're sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. And they're just 100 of the more than 8,000 U.S. and coalition troops who have died.

FULL STORY

Filed under: History • Military • Who we are
Former troops say time has come for women in combat units
Marines Sgt. Sheena Adams, Lance Cpl. Kristi Baker and Navy Hospital Corpsman Shannon Crowley in Afghanistan in 2010.
January 24th, 2013
12:25 PM ET

Former troops say time has come for women in combat units

By Chelsea J. Carter and Steve Almasy, CNN

(CNN) - For women who have already seen combat, it is a decision that is well overdue. But for the skeptics, it is a setback that will damage the military.

The Pentagon's reported decision to lift the ban on women in combat units will take time to put into effect, but many former service members are lauding reports that the Defense Department will make the change soon.

"We have an all-volunteer force, and I think that this opens up a pool of folks who could serve in these positions," said Rep. Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran who lost both legs and the use of one arm when her helicopter crew was shot down in 2004. "Any time that we've opened up our military to performance-based service ... we've benefited as a military. This is good for the nation."

The new policy will be implemented over the next three years, and some units may apply for exemptions, a senior defense official told CNN.

FULL STORY
Military to open combat jobs to women
January 23rd, 2013
04:29 PM ET

Military to open combat jobs to women

By Chris Lawrence, with reporting from Barbara Starr, CNN

(CNN) –The U.S. military is ending its policy of excluding women from combat and will open combat jobs and direct combat units to female troops, CNN has learned. Multiple officials confirm to CNN that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will make the announcement tomorrow and notify Congress of the planned change in policy.

“We will eliminate the policy of ‘no women in units that are tasked with direct combat,’” a senior defense official says.

But the officials caution that “not every position will open all at once on Thursday.” Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense will enter what is being called an “assessment phase,” in which each branch of service will examine all of its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable in which it can integrate them.

The Army and Marine Corps, especially, will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units. Every 90 days, the service chiefs will have to report back on their progress.

The move will be one of the last significant policy decisions made by Panetta, who is expected to leave in mid-February. It is not clear where former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the nominated replacement, stands, but officials say he has been apprised of Panetta's coming announcement.

“It will take awhile to work out the mechanics in s

Read the full post on CNN's Security Clearance blog
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Filed under: History • How we live • Military • Veterans • Women
Marine Corps to spouse clubs: Allow same-sex members or you don't operate on base
Ashley Broadway, left, and her wife, Lt. Col. Heather Mack. Broadway says a Fort Bragg spouse club rejected her.
January 10th, 2013
10:12 AM ET

Marine Corps to spouse clubs: Allow same-sex members or you don't operate on base

By Ashley Fantz, CNN

(CNN) - It apparently takes more than a few good men, according to the U.S. Marine Corps. It takes all kinds of people to support military families, including same-sex spouses of service members.

CNN published a story this week about a woman married to a female lieutenant colonel at Fort Bragg who believes she was rejected from an officers' spouse club because she's gay. Late Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary advised Marine Corps legal staff such clubs conducting business on its bases must admit same-same spouses. If they do not, the clubs will be barred from meeting on any Marine Corps installation.

Ary wrote that clubs cannot discriminate against any member because of "race, color, creed, sex, age, disability, or national origin. We would interpret a spouse's club's decision to exclude a same-sex spouse as sexual discrimination because the exclusion was based upon the spouse's sex."

Fort Bragg Garrison Commander Col. Jeffrey Sanborn, told CNN earlier this week that he could do nothing about Ashley Broadway's rejection by the Association of Bragg Officers' club because the group was private.

Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Eric Flanagan, who provided a portion of the memo to CNN, said, "We expect that all who are interested in supporting Marine Corps Family Readiness would be welcome to participate and will be treated with dignity and respect."

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Family • How we live • Military • Sexual orientation
January 8th, 2013
09:59 AM ET

Out - but not in: Fort Bragg's spouse club shuts out gay wife

By Ashley Fantz, CNN

(CNN) - For 15 years, Ashley Broadway has devoted her life to the military and to her spouse, an Army lieutenant colonel.

The former schoolteacher found a new job and made new friends each time she had to relocate bases, including a move to South Korea. When a deployment to the Middle East separated the couple, Broadway took care of the couple's young son, Carson, on her own.

Now at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and with a second child on the way, Broadway wanted to settle down and get to know more spouses like herself.

So she applied for membership to the Association of Bragg Officers' Spouses.

"I thought, 'Here's a chance to make some close friends who would really understand me,' " Broadway said. "And I could get very active in events that help other families like mine. I was excited, really excited, to be a part of this group."

But the Bragg spouse club apparently didn't feel the same way. Broadway's married to Lt. Col. Heather Mack. The officers' spouse club didn't want her, she believes, because she's gay.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: How we live • Military • Relationships • Sexual orientation
West Point cadet quits over religion
Blake Page says West Point discriminates against nonreligious cadets.
December 6th, 2012
01:25 PM ET

West Point cadet quits over religion

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) – Military development. Academics. Athletics. Three pillars of Army values that cadets at America's most prestigious military academy live by.

But West Point cadet Blake Page says there is one other unspoken pillar at the United States Military Academy: religion.

That's why, with just five months left before graduation, Page quit.

And he did it in a most public fashion in a fiery blog post.

"The tipping point of my decision to resign was the realization that countless officers here and throughout the military are guilty of blatantly violating the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution,"  wrote Page, 24, in The Huffington Post. FULL POST

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Filed under: Discrimination • Military • Religion