COLUMBUS, Ohio –
The Defense Supply Center Columbus hosted its 4th annual LGBT Pride Month program June 20 in the Operations Center Auditorium.
The purpose of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Employment Program is to ensure dignity and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
During opening remarks, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Columbus Quality of Life, Understanding and Empowerment Champion Angie Oberhauser said that the LGBT narrative is a fundamentally American story that reminds everyone that integrity and respect are the cornerstone of our military and civilian cultures as she introduced the keynote speaker.
Tara Allison, a local lawyer and LGBT activist, shared her story that tied into this year’s theme, “Pride in all who serve.”
Allison served nine years in the U.S. Navy. She enlisted after graduating high school and went on to attend the U.S. Naval Academy, serving as an officer until she was honorably discharged. Once separated, Allison worked as a nuclear engineer.
She was married, had kids, a house and a dream career. She was even a deacon at her church. To those looking in from the outside, it seemed that Allison was living the American dream; however for Allison, she wasn’t. This was Todd’s life, not hers. Todd is who Tara was before she transitioned.
“Nobody that transitions does so lightly,” Allison said. “It is so scary. I’ve faced and overcame many challenges in my life — but this one, being transgender and dealing with that, transitioning from one gender to another — that was the scariest and most difficult thing I ever did in my entire life. It was so scary and difficult that I honestly considered ending myself so that nobody needed to know.”
Her feelings of loss and despair are not unique to her, in fact she stated that almost half of the transgender population take their lives because of the stress, fear, anxiety, depression and various other negative feelings.
Allison said she knew from a young age who she was. She knew she enjoyed playing inside with her sister and friends with Barbies rather than being outside building forts.
But as she got older, she hid and conformed to what her father and society thought a guy should be, becoming an all-American “macho-man.”
Hiding year after year, lying to herself and to those in her network, she said, took a toll on her.
“We live in a society that’s not real friendly to being different,” Allison said.
This is why she hid, but she said that the feelings never went away. She knew inside who she was.
She stressed throughout her story that being transgender is not a choice.
Often people are confused by this and it’s important to understand what transgender is and what it means, Allison said.
Allison explained that “biological gender everyone usually understands, it’s what plumbing you’re born with … gender identity is what’s between your ears. For most people, those things are congruent so there is never a need to differentiate between the two. For those that are trans, those aren’t congruent and that’s the whole nutshell of being trans. It’s an incongruence between your biological gender and your gender identity … they don’t match.”
It’s not a choice, she explained, by giving a few examples.
If someone had an accident or had to have a procedure and lost their physical gender attributions, they wouldn’t wake up and declare they were now the opposite sex, Allison said. This is because they have an innate understanding of who they are. The same is true for transgender people.
“Gender identity has nothing to do with your biological gender,” Allison said. “Your gender identity is how your brain is wired into you.”
Furthermore, relating back to her military service, she said that there is nothing that she did as Todd that she couldn’t do today as Tara and that she was proud to know we now have openly transgender service members who are able to serve proudly in our armed forces.
She reflected on a sign a classmate at the Naval Academy had in their room that read “The standard that you walk past and allow to stand is the standard that you accept.”
Allison challenged everyone in the audience to help make it a little easier by standing up for those in her community because coming out of hiding and making the transformation is the scariest and most difficult decision anyone will make in their lifetime.
The event concluded with Allison asking the audience to take away one point and one reflection from the event:
- Being transgender is not a choice.
- What is the standard you will accept?
The LGBT SEP meets the first Tuesday of each month at 2 p.m. in Building 20 Room B726N. Due to the holiday, their next meeting is July 11. For more information, contact Jiwon Han at Jiwon.Han@dla.mil.
Looking for a volunteer opportunity to get involved with cultural events at DSCC? Become a member of an Equal Employment Opportunity Office Special Emphasis Program.
If you’re interested in learning about other SEPs and how to join, visit http://www.dla.mil/LandandMaritime/About/Offices/EEO/EEO-Special-Emphasis.
DLA Land and Maritime associates can view the streaming event online.