Follow Friday: Transgender Veterans and Service Members
An estimated 15,000 Transgender Americans are Veterans or Active Service Members in the U.S. Armed Forces (Williams Institute). This Follow Friday is an opportunity to meet just a few of them. Follow these committed and brave activists and share their stories with your friends. It’s important to put some names and faces to the conversations that are currently happening about trans service.
Drill Seargant Ken Ochoa joined the Army in 2010 and began his transition in 2014, long before it was allowed. Ken has been serving openly as a transgender man for more than year.
Ken was planning to re-enlist in the Army this year. In a recent article in BBC News, however, he states:
“”Now I don’t even know if I can do that,” he said. “It just seems like chaos, so many unknowns.”
Jamie Lee Henry
Jamie Lee Henry joined the Army at the young age of seventeen and currently serves as a doctor and major in the Army’s Medical Corps. She also is a transgender woman.
Jamie Lee Henry came out in May 2015 in a Buzfeed article written by Chris Geidner
Jamie is the first known active-duty Army officer to come out as transgender. The Army granted her request to officially change her name and gender. Jamie gives credit to her commanding officer for supporting her during this time, telling Buzzfeed News: “My commander said, ‘I don’t care who you love, I don’t care how you identify, I want you to be healthy and I want you to be able to do your job.”
Evan Young is the President of the Transgender American Veterans Association, which works to ensure that transgender veterans will receive appropriate care and advocate for transgender veterans with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense. Evan graduated from basic training in 1929 eventually rising to the rank of Major before his retirement in 2013.
Karen Kendra Holmes
Karen Kendra Holmes works for the Corporation for National & Community Service. She is also, however a Staff Sergeant with the Maryland Defense Force
In 2012 she received the Soldier of the Year Award from the by the Maryland State Guard Association, and in 2013 she received the National Soldier of the Year Award from the State Guard Association of the United States.
Karen volunteers her time with a wide variety of organizations including PFLAG Metro DC, the American Red Cross, and Equality Maryland.
Brynn Tannehill graduated from the Naval Academy with a B.S. in computer science in 1997. She earned her Naval Aviator wings in 1999 and flew SH-60B helicopters and P-3C maritime patrol aircraft during three deployments between 2000 and 2004. She served as a campaign analyst while deployed overseas to 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain from 2005 to 2006. In 2008 Brynn earned a M.S. in Operations Research from the Air Force Institute of Technology and transferred from active duty to the Naval Reserves.
In 2008 Brynn began working as a senior defense research scientist in private industry. Brynn serves on the Board of Directors for Trans United. Brynn and her wife Janis currently live in Springfield, VA, with their three children.
Shane Ortega is an American Soldier who served with both the U.S. Army and the U.S Marines. Ortega has served three hostile fire combat tours, two in Iraq, one in Afghanistan.
Ortega has used to his personal experience to become a powerful advocate for transgender service members. Now retired, Ortega pursues a wide variety of interests. He is a sought after public speaker, community activist, a professionally ranked body-builder, and a brand ambassador with #ILoveGay.
Laila Ireland served in the Army as a combat nurse. An Iraq veteran and transgender woman, her service included three combat tours.
Laila is married to Logan Ireland, an openly trans man who currently is serving in the Airforce.
As members of SPARTA, Laila and her husband have been powerful advocates for the transgender community. Find out more about Laila and Logan in this recent article.
Kristen Beck is a retired United States Navy SEAL who gained public attention in 2013 when she came out as a trans woman. She published her memoir in June 2013, Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming out Transgender, detailing her experiences.
Beck served in the U.S. Navy for twenty years and is the first openly transgender former U.S. Navy SEAL.