LGBTQ+ History Month: Mary Edwards Walker, Surgeon, Union Army

Surgeon
b. November 26, 1832
d. February 21, 1919

You men are not our protectors… If you were, who would there be to protect us from? 

A steadfast feminist, Mary Edwards Walker defied nineteenth century patriarchal society by refusing to live within the confines of gender-based roles. As a student, physician, and activist, Walker defined her place in society while paving the way for future generations of women.

Diverging from the norm, Walker’s liberal parents encouraged her and her five sisters to attend college and pursue careers. Her father, a self-taught doctor and advocate of women’s dress reform, largely influenced Walker.

In 1855, Mary Edwards Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College, becoming one of only a few female physicians in the country. She married fellow student and physician Albert Miller in an unconventional ceremony. Walker wore trousers and a man’s coat and chose to keep her last name. The marriage ended four years later.

At the onset of the Civil War, having been denied a position as an Army medical officer, Walker volunteered as a nurse for the Union Army. During the next few years she served in several battles including the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Fredericksburg. Despite her service, Walker often found herself at the scrutiny of male superiors who questioned her credentials.

The Confederate Army captured Walker in 1864 and held her captive for four months.  Shortly following her release, Walker became the first woman commissioned as Army Surgeon, earning a monthly salary of one hundred dollars.

The following year, Walker became the first and only woman in history to receive a Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the United States. The bill, which President Andrew Johnson signed upon the recommendation of two major generals, reads:

Whereas it appears from official reports that Dr. Mary E. Walker, a graduate of medicine, has rendered valuable service to the Government, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in Southern prison while acting as contract surgeon…It is ordered, That a testimonial thereof shall be hereby made and given to the said Dr. Mary E. Walker, and that the actual medal of honor for meritorious services be given her.

After the war, Walker continued to live a nonconformist lifestyle. A strong advocate of dress reform, she wore men’s clothing exclusively and was arrested on several occasions for impersonating a man. In 1917, Congress revoked her Medal of Honor after revising the criteria for receiving the medal. Walker refused to return the medal, wearing it until her death.

Bibliography

Mary Edwards Walker Papers, Syracuse University

It is Women’s History Month!

In 1981, the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 97-28 which authorized and requested the President proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week.” For the next five years, Congress continued to pass joint resolutions designation a week in March. After being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project in 1987, Congress passed Public Law 100-9 which designated the whole month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Over the next seven years, Congress passed resolutions for the President to make an annual proclamation for the month of March. In 1995, the President started to issue a series of annual proclamations designating March as Women’s History Month to celebrate the contributions women have made to the United States and recognize the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields.

Women continue to make history to this very day. For example, the United States voted for its first-ever female Vice President in the 2020 General Election in Kamala Harris and, recently, female recruits arrived at MCRD San Diego to make up the Marine Corps’ first coed company in the base’s 100-year history for boot camp. For the purpose of this post, we’ll focus on the contributions of our nation’s Women Servicemembers and Veterans.

According to the VA’s Women Veterans Make History page, women who served did not formally fall under a military command until the early 20th century. Before then, women served in various capacities starting as early as the Revolutionary War. It’s estimated that more than 400 women fought in the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.

Over 1,000 women flew aircraft for the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs)

As the nation entered the 20th century, the number of Servicewomen increased. During World War I, approximately 35,000 women served as nurses and support staff. In World War II, that number increased to about 140,000 women who took on critical billets in military intelligence, cryptography, and parachute rigging. During WWII, 1943 specifically, the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was formed.

It wasn’t until 1948 when Congress passed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act that Servicewomen were granted permanent status in the military thereby entitling them to benefits when they left the ranks to become Veterans.

On May 28, 1980, 62 women graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of 1980 becoming the first women to graduate from the academy. (Photos from Signal Corps Collection, U.S. Military Academy Archives) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

During the Vietnam War, approximately 7,000 women served in Southeast Asia. In 1976, women were admitted to America’s service academies at West Point (U.S. Military Academy), Annapolis (U.S. Naval Academy), and Colorado Springs (Air Force Academy). In the early 1990s, more than 40,000 women deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.

More recently, since the start of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM following 9/11, over 700,000 women have served in OEF and 2003’s Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF).

The U.S. Armed Forces make efforts to recognize the contributions of women to our nation’s defense. Below are their respective pages commemorating the service of women in the military.

When Servicemembers finish their service, they become Women Veterans. The VA has made the health of Women Vets a priority and the following is listing of resources.

Over the course of the month, the SITREP will highlight a resource for Women Veterans. You can also follow the SITREP socials for more content as well as our Women Veterans resource page.

Last but not least, thank you to all Women serving in the U.S. military and to all Women Veterans for your service to the nation!

For more Women’s History, check out www.WomensHistoryMonth.gov and the National Women’s History Museum.

March 2021 Observances

Do you ever wonder how organizations, businesses, and individuals know when a certain observance or awareness month, week, or day is? If so, below is a tailored list of observances for the month of March 2021 specifically for military, Veterans, and LGBTQ+ folx. We may issue graphics for some of the events listed below. For those that are not illustrated, there are links below to find out more information.

History

  • March 2, 1943: The Battle of the Bismarck Sea Begins
  • March 3, 1915: The U.S. Navy Reserve is established
  • March 4, 1789: The 1st Meeting of Congress under the U.S. Constitution occurs in New York City
  • March 5, 1942: The U.S. Navy Seabees are founded
  • March 7, 2019: U.S. District Judge George Russell III lifts order against the Trump Administration’s transgender military ban
  • March 8, 2019: The Pentagon announces enforcement of the transgender military ban
  • March 10, 1778: Lt. Frederick Gotthold Ensign is dismissed for “sodomy”
  • March 13, 2014: The Palm Center reports no compelling medical reason for the transgender military ban
  • March 15, 1919: The American Legion is founded
  • March 15, 1942: U.S. War Department lays out procedures for rejecting gay draftees
  • March 19, 1941: The Tuskegee Airmen are founded
  • March 19, 2003: Operation IRAQI FREEDOM begins
  • March 24, 1999: The Kosovo War begins
  • March 27, 1947: The Truman Doctrine Policy is created
  • March 27, 1981: Doe v. Alexander allows the U.S. military to refine regulations to deny payment for hormonal therapy and reassignment surgeries; those found to be taking therapies or having surgeries were barred from enlisting or discharged from the ranks.
  • March 29, 1994: The Somalia Campaign ends

Monthly

  • Women Veterans History: Throughout our history, the important contributions of women in our nation’s defense and as part of the Veteran population cannot be overstated. The VA dedicates Women’s History Month in March to remember women who served our nation throughout history.  This observance grants deserved recognition and acknowledges the achievements of women in the military.
  • Brain Injury Awareness: The Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) leads the nation in observing Brain Injury Awareness Month in March each year. The theme for the 2021 to 2023 campaign is More Than My Brain Injury.
  • Colorectal Cancer Awareness: In February 2000, President Clinton officially dedicated March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Since then, it has grown to be a rallying point for the colorectal cancer community where thousands of patients, survivors, caregivers and advocates throughout the country join together to spread colorectal cancer awareness by wearing blue, holding fundraising and education events, talking to friends and family about screening and so much more.
  • Multiple Sclerosis Awareness: March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month, and MSAA is proud to support this national campaign with several online educational activities. MSAA has focused the 2021 awareness initiative on Improving Mental Health and Wellness with specific programs addressing Purpose in Life, depression and anxiety in MS, care partnering, and wellness strategies to improve symptom management and overall quality of life.
  • Bleeding Disorders Awareness: March is nationally recognized as Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month. Join the National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) in celebrating and honoring the bleeding disorders community. In 2016, thanks to NHF’s advocacy efforts, March was officially designated as Bleeding Disorders Awareness Month.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) Awareness: Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month is observed every March. The public health initiative is intended to educate the public about this serious and often undiagnosed condition and its potentially fatal complication, pulmonary embolism. DVT is caused when a blood clot forms deep in the body. PE occurs when clots above the knee break off, travel through the blood stream and lead to a blocked vessel in the lung. Together, DVT and PE are known as venous thromboembolism.
  • Nutrition: March is the best month of the year, because it’s National Nutrition Month! National Nutrition Month is an annual information and education campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). It was first initiated in 1973 as National Nutrition Week, and it became a month-long observance in 1980 in response to growing interest in nutrition.
  • Caffeine Awareness: In 2003, the Caffeine Awareness Alliance formed, with the mission “to provide objective, evidence-based information and advice to help reduce the health, social, and economic harm associated with caffeine abuse and addiction.” The Alliance became a 501(c) nonprofit, and staked a big enough claim with their solid points about caffeine overuse to bring National Caffeine Awareness Month into wide recognition.
  • Peanuts: Believed to be first cultivated about 8,000 years ago in Peru, peanuts pack in a lot of goodness – plenty of proteins, healthy carbs, and as many as 30 key nutrients. They are good for your heart as well as your mental health, and there are plenty of ways to use peanuts – George Washington Carver came up with 300! Given their goodness, it makes sense to have an entire month dedicated to them. Here’s to March, the National Peanut Month!

Weekly

Daily

On This Day in 1943, the U.S. Marine Corps Women’s Reserve was Formed

On this day in 1943, the U.S. Marine Corps’ Women’s Reserve was formed after months of delay following President Roosevelt’s signing of Public Law 689 on July 30, 1942.

The law officially established the Women’s Reserve as a branch of the Naval Reserve for the Navy and Marine Corps. Its purpose, to free up officers and men for combat as the Women’s Reserve filled enlisted and officer billets on the homefront.

Though faced with opposition from government and military leaders, the Women’s Reserve proved invaluable. Commandant of the Marine Corps General Thomas Holcomb, who had been opposed to the Reserve, reversed course by 1943’s end saying, “There’s hardly any work at our Marine stations that women can’t do as well as men. They do some work far better than men…What is more, they’re real Marines. They don’t have a nickname, and they don’t need one.”

Thank you to all Women Marines and Women Veterans who have served and are serving this great nation: OOHRAH!

Read more:

Resources:

LGBT+ History Month: Fannie Mae Clackum, U.S. Air Force

Video of Women in the Air Force for Women’s History Month

b. June 10, 1929

d. August 16, 2014

Fannie Mae Clackum was the first person to successfully challenge her discharge on the grounds of homosexuality from the U.S military.

Clackum served as a U.S. Air Force Reservist is the late 1940s and early 1950s. In February 1951, she was ordered to active duty and stationed at Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, at the rank of Corporal in the 301st Air Base Group.

In April 1951, Clackum was called before her commanding officer and the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) for questioning on “matters of homosexuality.”

According to research into the case, the OSI had reportedly set up a sting operation designed to substantiate the Air Force’s suspicions that Clackum and Grace Garner, another female servicemember, were lesbians. At the time of the April 1951 interrogation, Clackum stated she had no knowledge of allegations of homosexuality. What followed were months of interviews by the OSI.

In October 1951, Clackum was informed that some action was being contemplated against her and she was offered the opportunity to resign. She refused and demanded to be tried by court-martial in order to require the Air Force to confront her on the basis of accusations made against her. Also, to allow her the opportunity to present evidence in her own behalf.

A court martial was apparently denied. On January 22, 1952, the Air Force demoted Clackum to the grade of Private and discharged her under conditions other than honorable under A.F.R. 35-66, dated January 12, 1951.

Reportedly, Clackum and Grace Garner, both demoted and discharged, lived together in Marietta, Georgia. They spent eight years fighting their discharges in the U.S. Court of Claims on the basis of denial of due process when the Air Force denied a court martial following by discharge.

In 1960, Clackum and Garner prevailed when their respective discharges were invalidated and they were awarded back pay for the remainder of their enlistments.

Historically, Clackum’s case, along with Garner’s, were the earliest known instances of successful appeal of discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces on grounds of homosexuality but was not the basis on which the case turned. The turn came on due process claims because the U.S. Air Force largely kept Clackum unaware of the allegations and proceedings prior to her discharge. Summarily, she finally found out what had happened after she’d been summoned, demoted, and discharged in 1952.

American historian Lillian Faderman wrote the following on Clackum’s case, it is a remarkable observation and insight into the life of lesbian women in the military in the 1950s.

“Almost never did they have the energy to protest what had been done to them, although one woman, an Air Force Reservist, Fannie Mae Clackum, actually did win a suit against the government in the U.S. Court of Claims in 1960, which suggests that in somewhat saner times an objective court could understand how outrageous the military’s tactics were. Clackum demanded eight years of back pay, complaining that she was accused of homosexuality but given no trial or hearing and no opportunity to know the evidence against her or to know her accusers. From April 1951 to January 1952, she had been repeatedly questioned by an OSI officer regarding lesbianism. She was asked to resign, although she was never informed of specific charges. When she refused, she was demoted from corporal to private and ordered to take a psychiatric examination. She was finally discharaged (sic) as an undesirable at the beginning of 1952. The court found that her discharge was invalid, but Clackum was an isolated instance of a woman who dared to carry out a challenge to the reigning powers in the 1950s, since everything – the psychiatric establishment, the military’s demoralization tactics, the government, popular wisdom – militated against the lesbian believing that she had the human right to expect justice.

“A major effect that military life of the 1950s had on lesbian subculture was to confirm even further that for the outside world love between women was a love that dares not speak its name, that it would certainly not be treated with common decency and respect. But at the same time the military experience strengthened the bonds between women who chose to be part of the lesbian sisterhood; it showed them how to network and how to guard against the forces that were enemies of women who loved women. Such knowledge was also to become very useful in life outside the military. “

Lillian Faderman, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in 20th-Century America (1992)

Fannie Mae Clackum passed away on August 16, 2014 at age 85 in Marietta, Georgia. Her obituary makes no mention of her case, Fannie Mae Clackum v. United States.

Sources

LGBT+ History Month: Anne McClain, U.S. Army

There are no average days or normal days in outer space.

NASA Astronaut

b. June 7, 1979

Anne McClain is a former NASA astronaut and U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who served as flight engineer for Expeditions 58/59 to the International Space Station. She is the second LGBTQ person to become an American astronaut.

Born and raised in Spokane, Washington, McClain dreamed of becoming an astronaut from an early age. She graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point with a degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering. She earned a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Bath and a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Bristol, where she was a Marshall Scholar. A competitive athlete, she played rugby for the Women’s Premiership in England and for the U.S.A. Rugby Women’s National Team.

Following her studies, McClain joined the U.S. Army as a helicopter pilot, rising through the ranks to detachment commander. She served 15 months in Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying more than 216 combat missions as pilot-in-command. In 2010 McClain was appointed commander of C Troop, 1st Battalion, 14th Aviation Regiment, responsible for the Army’s initial entry training, instructor pilot training and maintenance test pilot training in the OH-58D Kiowa Warrior. During her military service, she logged more than 2,000 flight hours in 20 different aircraft.

In 2013 McClain was selected as one of eight members of the 21st NASA astronaut class, becoming the youngest astronaut on NASA’s roster. The selection made her the second gay American astronaut after Sally Ride and the first out active NASA astronaut. In 2015 McClain completed the rigorous candidate training process, including scientific and technical training, physiological training, intensive instruction in International Space Station systems, spacewalks and robotics, T-38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training.

From December 2018 to June 2019, McClain served as flight engineer on NASA Expedition 58/59 to the International Space Station. The flight launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz spacecraft. McClain was one of three crew members on the expedition, along with Canadian David Saint-Jacques and Russian Oleg Kononenko. McClain and the crew contributed to hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and earth science, including investigations into small devices that replicate the structure and function of human organs, editing DNA in space for the first time, and recycling 3D-printed material. McClain conducted two spacewalks totaling 13 hours and 8 minutes. She returned to earth after spending 204 days in space.

McClain resides in Houston, Texas. She has a six-year-old son, Briggs.

Articles & Websites:

LGBT History Month: Margarethe Cammermeyer, Col., WA National Guard

I wear my uniform at every inappropriate moment to remind people of gays and lesbians who have to serve in silence in the military.

Military Officer

b. March 24, 1943

In 1992, Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer became the highest-ranking military officer discharged on the basis of sexual orientation. Cammermeyer was dismissed as chief nurse of the Washington State National Guard after disclosing she was a lesbian during a routine security clearance interview. She challenged the U.S. military’s ban on homosexuals in federal court. In 1994, she was reinstated as chief nurse, making her one of the few openly gay or lesbian members of the military.

Cammermeyer was born in Oslo, Norway, during the Nazi occupation. Her parents sheltered Norwegian resistance forces. Cammermeyer credits her parents’ courage as her inspiration for defending civil liberties.

In 1951, Cammermeyer’s family moved to the U.S. She became a citizen in 1961 and joined the U.S. Army Student Nurse Program. After receiving her B.S. in nursing from the University of Maryland in 1963, Cammermeyer reported for active duty.

At her request, in 1967, Cammermeyer was deployed to Vietnam where she served as head nurse of a neurosurgical intensive care unit. She calls this time in her life “the most extraordinary experience any military nurse could have been a part of.” Cammermeyer was honored with the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service. In 1985, she was named Nurse of the Year by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In 1964, Cammermeyer married a fellow soldier and had four sons. The couple divorced after 15 years. In 1989, Cammermeyer met her life partner, Diane Divelbess.

Cammermeyer’s autobiography, “Serving in Silence” (1994), received critical acclaim.  The book was turned into a made-for-TV movie, executive produced by Barbra Streisand and starring Glenn Close. The film generated more than 25 million viewers and received three Emmy Awards and the Peabody Award. It was one of the first television movies about a gay person. 

Cammermeyer retired in 1997 after 31 years of service. She served on the Military Advisory Council for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network and was an outspoken advocate for the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Bibliography

Articles

Books

Other Resources

Websites

LGBT History Month: Miriam Ben-Shalom, U.S. Army

A reporter asked me how it felt to be a gay person in the military, and I couldn’t see any reason to lie.

Soldier

b. May 3, 1948

Miriam Ben-Shalom is the first openly lesbian service member to be reinstated by the U.S. Army after she was discharged in 1976 for being gay.

Ben-Shalom took the Army to court over the matter. In 1980 a judge with the U.S. District Court in Chicago ruled that her dismissal violated the First, Fifth and Ninth Amendments of the Constitution. The Army refused to honor the ruling, resulting in a seven-year court battle that ultimately forced her reinstatement. The former staff sergeant—one of only two female drill sergeants in the 84th Division of the U.S. Army Reserve—then returned to service until 1990.

Ben-Shalom was one of six openly LGBT veterans who cofounded the Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans of America (GLBVA), known today as the American Veterans for Equal Rights. She spent many years advocating against the military’s LGBT ban. In 1993 she chained herself to the White House fence to protest “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT), the military policy that required soldiers to remain closeted in order to serve. In 2010 Ben-Shalom was arrested for again chaining herself to the fence, along with fellow activist Dan Choi, to urge President Barack Obama to end DADT. The president signed the repeal of DADT later that year.

“I hope my community will take time to remember those who came before and those who fought recently and lost,” she said when the act was repealed. “Remember, too, and remain watchful. Merely because something ends does not mean it will end well. Ask any of us who helped to make history about that.”

Born in Wisconsin, Ben-Shalom also became an Israeli citizen when she was 19 and served in the Israeli Army during the War of Attrition. She is now a member of the New England Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans and the California Alexander Hamilton American Legion. She lives in Milwaukee with her partner, Karen Weiss.

Bibliography

  • Estes, Steve. Ask & Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out, University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
  • “Frontlines: Military Gays Fight Back,” Mother Jones (June 1976).
  • Ocamb, Karen. “Former Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom on the Personal Impact of Serving in Silence,” Frontiers (November 22, 2010).

Website

LGBT History Month: Tammy Smith, Maj. Gen., U.S. Army Reserve

Anyone who has ever busted through a glass ceiling got cut a little.

U.S. General

b. 1963

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, right, the Army Reserve’s director of Human Capital Core Enterprise, and her partner, Tracey Hepner, attend the second annual Knights Out Dinner at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y, March 23, 2013. Smith was a Courage Award recipient and keynote speaker at the event. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Stanley Maszczak/Released)

Tammy Smith is the first out lesbian general in the U.S. Army. She was named a brigadier general in 2012 and formally promoted during a ceremony at the Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. She became the commanding general of the 98th Training Division.

Born in Oakland, Oregon, Smith began her military career when she received a four-year Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarship. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 1986 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps.

During her 30-year military career, Smith has served as a platoon leader in Panama, a logistic support detachment commander in Costa Rica and a company commander in South Carolina. She was stationed in Afghanistan, where she was chief of Army Reserve affairs during Operation Enduring Freedom.  

Smith holds a Doctor of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix and received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Lincoln University. She has been decorated with numerous medals and awards and is in the ROTC’s Hall of Fame. 

Smith married Tracey Hepner in 2012. The ceremony, held at the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, was officiated by a military chaplain just two years after same-sex marriage was legalized in the nation’s capital. 

“For me it’s really been transitional,” Smith said in an interview, “to go from being 100 percent in the closet to being globally gay.” She continued, “She [Tracey] has been so wonderful in helping me cut loose the shackles of those 26 years in the military, of having to hide a part of myself. I don’t live a double life anymore.” 

Hepner founded the Military Partners and Families Coalition, a national military advocacy organization that provides support, education and resources for LGBT military members and their families. Smith has become active in LGBT events and advocacy and has been honored by many LGBT organizations and publications. She served as grand marshal of the 2013 Gay Pride Parade in Washington.

LGBT History Month: Katherine Miller, U.S. Army

It’s about vocalizing what the voiceless cannot say and making visible those who are invisible.

Soldier/Activist

b. November 13, 1989

In this photo provided by Katherine Miller on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, Miller, a lesbian cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, is shown. Miller on Monday, Aug. 12, 2010 asked to resign from the U.S. Military Academy because she can no longer lie about her sexuality and was troubled by the anti-gay attitudes of some around her. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Katherine Miller) NO SALES

Katherine Miller was the last West Point cadet discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). She is a 2012 Yale graduate. With the repeal of DADT, Miller enlisted in the Army as an officer.

Raised in Ohio in a conservative military family, Miller’s dream was to become an officer in the Army. In 2008, she enrolled at West Point and excelled as a cadet, ranking in the top one percent of her class. She faced hostility from those who believed her to be a lesbian. After two years at the academy, Miller said, “I could not square my integrity with the daily half-truths that came with hiding my sexuality.”

In 2010, Miller came out to her commanders and leaked her letter of resignation to the media, effectively initiating her own discharge. The following day she discussed her decision on MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” and became a spokesperson for the repeal of DADT. After her discharge, Miller transferred to Yale University.

Miller served on the founding board of OutServe, then an underground organization of gay active-duty service members. She represented the organization at major media engagements, most notably escorting Lady Gaga to the MTV Video Music Awards to mobilize viewers for the DADT repeal.

Miller was the most important lesbian voice in the repeal of DADT. As a tribute to her activism, she was invited to the White House for the signing of the repeal bill in 2011.

Miller was named a Truman Scholar, a Point Foundation Scholar and one of Out magazine’s “Top 100 Influential Men and Women of 2010.”

Bibliography

LGBT History Month: Christine Jorgensen, U.S. Army

Nature made a mistake, which I have had corrected.

Soldier/Transgender Pioneer

b. May 30, 1926
d. May 3, 1989

Christine Jorgensen was the first nationally known transgender American. She used her fame to speak out on behalf of transgender people.

Born George Jorgensen Jr. and raised in the Bronx, she described herself as a “frail, tow-headed, introverted little boy who ran from fistfights and rough-and-tumble games.” In 1945, after graduating high school, Jorgensen was drafted into the Army.

Jorgensen researched gender reassignment surgery. While visiting Copenhagen, she met Dr. Christian Hamburger, an endocrinologist and specialist in rehabilitative hormonal therapy. With Hamburger’s help, Jorgensen became one of the first to combine hormone therapy with gender reassignment surgery. She chose the name Christine to honor Dr. Hamburger.

In 1952, based on an intercepted letter to her parents describing her transformation, the New York Daily News ran the headline “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty.” The media incorrectly called Jorgensen the first person to undergo the surgery, which had been performed since the late 1920’s in Europe. She returned to New York City and used her fame to advocate for transsexual and transgender people.

Jorgensen continued her transition by having a vaginoplasty. In 1959, she became engaged to Howard Knox. They tried to wed, but the marriage license was rejected because Jorgensen was legally a male. The media reported the story, Knox lost his job, and the relationship ended.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Jorgensen spoke at universities across the nation about her life. She became a singer and actress performing in Las Vegas, New York City and Hollywood. Jorgensen appeared in the documentary “Paradise Not For Sale” (1984) and was the focus of “The Christine Jorgensen Story” (1970). Jorgensen authored “Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Biography” (1967).

Bibliography

  • “Christine Jorgensen.” ChristineJorgensen.org. July 18, 2012.  
  • McQuiston, John. “Christine Jorgensen, 62, Is Dead; Was First to Have a Sex Change.” NYTimes.com. July 18, 2012.  
  • “Christine Jorgensen: Biography” Biography.com. July 18, 2012.

Books

Movies

LGBT History Month: Mary Edwards Walker, Surgeon, Union Army

Surgeon
b. November 26, 1832
d. February 21, 1919

You men are not our protectors… If you were, who would there be to protect us from? 

A steadfast feminist, Mary Edwards Walker defied nineteenth century patriarchal society by refusing to live within the confines of gender-based roles. As a student, physician, and activist, Walker defined her place in society while paving the way for future generations of women.

Diverging from the norm, Walker’s liberal parents encouraged her and her five sisters to attend college and pursue careers. Her father, a self-taught doctor and advocate of women’s dress reform, largely influenced Walker.

In 1855, Mary Edwards Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College, becoming one of only a few female physicians in the country. She married fellow student and physician Albert Miller in an unconventional ceremony. Walker wore trousers and a man’s coat and chose to keep her last name. The marriage ended four years later.

At the onset of the Civil War, having been denied a position as an Army medical officer, Walker volunteered as a nurse for the Union Army. During the next few years she served in several battles including the First Battle of Bull Run and the Battle of Fredericksburg. Despite her service, Walker often found herself at the scrutiny of male superiors who questioned her credentials.

The Confederate Army captured Walker in 1864 and held her captive for four months.  Shortly following her release, Walker became the first woman commissioned as Army Surgeon, earning a monthly salary of one hundred dollars.

The following year, Walker became the first and only woman in history to receive a Medal of Honor, the highest military honor in the United States. The bill, which President Andrew Johnson signed upon the recommendation of two major generals, reads:

Whereas it appears from official reports that Dr. Mary E. Walker, a graduate of medicine, has rendered valuable service to the Government, and has devoted herself with much patriotic zeal to the sick and wounded soldiers, both in the field and hospitals, to the detriment of her own health, and has also endured hardships as a prisoner of war four months in Southern prison while acting as contract surgeon…It is ordered, That a testimonial thereof shall be hereby made and given to the said Dr. Mary E. Walker, and that the actual medal of honor for meritorious services be given her.

After the war, Walker continued to live a nonconformist lifestyle. A strong advocate of dress reform, she wore men’s clothing exclusively and was arrested on several occasions for impersonating a man. In 1917, Congress revoked her Medal of Honor after revising the criteria for receiving the medal. Walker refused to return the medal, wearing it until her death.

Bibliography

Mary Edwards Walker Papers, Syracuse University

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