The annual Defense Department Pride, an event which has been hosted by the Pentagon since 2011, has been described as tense, compared to other years, in the shadow of President Trump’s Anti-transgender Ban.
The event which was initially started in celebration of the repeal of the United States Military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, marks the first celebration since Trump announced in July 2017 on Twitter he’d ban transgender service members “in any capacity.”
Despite the President’s wishes, transgender service members, remain free to continue service thanks to court orders against Trump’s military ban, something which Trump is intent on overcoming.
Major Jamie Lee Henry, staff internist and a transgender active duty physician at Walter Reed Medical Center, said Pride is a time for “celebration of our humanity, our resilience and our bravery,” but alluded to difficulties felt by LGBTI service members under the transgender military ban.
“I am not a stranger to the dark,” Henry explained. “Recent events had me think a lot about experiences that I’ve gone through over the last five years.”
Henry said she is sometimes asked about the experience of being a transgender doctor, and her best response is a quote from French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, who called affliction “physical pain, distress of soul and social degradation all at the same time.”
“It was in 2013 when my only New Year’s resolutions were to not end my life or end up in jail,” Henry said. “I was an active duty captain. At the time, those goals seemed like the lowest hanging fruit I could reach.”
This years event, was also the first time that the Pentagon hosted the event, without issuing any kind of formal memorandum recognising Pride.
While no senior Pentagon official spoke, or presented on stage for the event, Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey, and Vee Penrod, acting secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, were seated in the audience, along with Major General Tammy Smith, the first openly gay general officer.