#Pride50: Alivia Stehlik — Transgender Army captain

From NBC News:  https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/pride50-alivia-stehlik-transgender-army-captain-n1008006

By Julie Compton
June 3, 2019

Army Capt. Alivia Stehlik is a graduate of West Point and Army Ranger School, a former infantry platoon leader, a physical therapist and a veteran of the Afghan war. She’s also a proud transgender woman.

When Stehlik, 32, testified before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington in February, she wanted the committee to know one thing: Living openly as a transgender woman has not affected her ability to defend her country.

“Has my transition made soldiers uncomfortable? Absolutely not,” Stehlik told the subcommittee, which at the time was considering a ban on transgender troops that officially took effect in April.

Stehlik, an Army physical therapist stationed in Fort Carson in Colorado Springs, reiterated that sentiment during an interview with NBC News.

“I went to these remote outposts with the most alpha male types that our Army has, and they were thrilled to have me and invited me back, and the fact that I was trans, they didn’t care,” she said. “They just wanted me to be competent, and I was.”

When, in 2016, the military lifted its original ban on transgender troops, Stehlik was thrilled. She transitioned in May 2017, and has lived openly as a woman ever since.

But her enthusiasm would be short lived. In April, the Pentagon implemented the Trump administration’s new policy to ban transgender troops from serving openly in the military.

While the Defense Department has said the policy is not a ban, the policy states that transgender troops cannot enlist or serve if they live openly in their preferred gender, and are disqualified if they have received a diagnosis of gender dysphoria — the mismatch a trans person may feel between their gender identity and biological sex.

But soldiers like Stehlik, who transitioned before the policy took effect, are exempt from those rules.

“Why am I different?” Stehlik asked. “To me, it’s just clearly discriminatory.”

Stehlik spent a year as an infantry platoon leader in South Korea in 2009. She graduated from the Army’s physical therapy school in 2016, and deployed to Afghanistan from May 2018 to January 2019, where she provided physical therapy to combat soldiers.

She’s optimistic that the ban on trans military personnel will be lifted.

“I have zero doubt that one day this question will be settled and trans people will be a full and welcome part of the military community and of the world,” Stehlik said.

Continue reading at:  https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/pride50-alivia-stehlik-transgender-army-captain-n1008006

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Fifty Years Ago

I started hormones in March of 1969.  I was already androgynous enough to be asked if I were a boy or a girl and after three months most new people I met assumed I was a girl.  Plus it was getting hard to hide my emerging  itchy boobs.

The People’s Park Riots in May had delayed my going full time. As May turned to June I stopped pretending and just started letting it happen.  Once I decided to be myself, presenting as a boy felt odd and after a few days I was just a hippie chick.  One night the people in the commune decided it was wrong to use my dead name.  They really made an effort and after a few days it became natural.

People saw how happy I was.

A week or so later Stonewall happened and a couple of weeks later I read about it in the Under Ground Press.

But mostly that summer was about being a Berkeley hippie chick.

Deserter friends split for Canada along with a boy named Morey, who I was seriously in love with.

We landed on the Moon.

I missed Woodstock but saw a bunch of other bands including the Rolling Stones in Oakland.  Skipped Altamont because I had a job and it didn’t sound like it would be much fun.

I was a hippie, not part of any trans-community, that would come later.

We have lost the words we used to describe our lives. “Hippie Chick.” The language police would mark that one out just as they would transsexual.

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game

Joni Mitchell

The 1960s became the 1970s. Town House Explosions and Kent State. I took up with Jerry, a Marine fresh back from Vietnam and too restless angry to bother waiting for an official discharge. I was doing sex work and we were a couple straight out of the Jane Fonda/Donald Sutherland movie “Steelyard Blues.”  We were crazy brave and crazy happy.  When Jerry got busted I got him out.

I went to work with the National Transsexual Counseling Unit in SF, co-running it with Jan Maxwell.

Then in June of 1972 around the solstice I had my sex change operation.

The following year I discovered LA and Jerry and I discovered open relationships didn’t work all that well.

In 1974 I went to my first Pride Day, picked from the crowd to speak because of my work with the NTCU my connection to the LGBT world was already becoming more and more about the L-word and less and less about the T-word.  I was held by more of a sense of obligation, a need to see others pick up the work.

And the words of “The Circle Game” keep playing.  Life is like a river not a quiet lake.

By the time of the internet, long before Facebook, when Usenet and mailing lists were the hottest thing around, I realized language had changed. My experiences and memories remain mine but now I am expected to remember certain events differently and use different words to describe my life.

Somewhere during that half century I stopped feeling trans, stopped seeing others as trans.  We became just people a different kind of ordinary not defined by trans-prefixed words.

Now with marriage equality and a nearly 2 decade relationship, hair that has turned gray, I or perhaps I should say we, have joined a much broader community of Elders.  I like the word Elder better than senior citizen.

 

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The Stonewall You Know Is a Myth. And That’s O.K. | NYT Celebrating Pride

In the summer of 1967 I first had sex with a man who picked  me near the subway stop at Sheridan Square.  The Stonewall didn’t exist yet but the area was known to be a gay cruising spot.

The area wasn’t the carnival of Bleeker and McDougal Streets, nor the East Village riot of St Mark’s Place.  It was mostly residential.  not far from where the Village Voice had their offices.

I hung out in the Village quite a bit during 1967, testing my wings in preparation for leaving home and coming out.

There were already gay and lesbian movements in NYC, SF and LA.  I met someone, a sister in the early stages of transition.  She told me SF was the place to be because there were trans-organizations there and doctors who would give hormone scripts.

In April of 1967 there had been the pageant in NYC that was documented in The Queen, which I posted recently.  Dr Benjamin’s book was out and available.

Fast Forward To 1969:

I was living in Berkeley and started transition, first coming out to friends.  Welfare Department Social workers were able to find people who were in turn able to refer me to a place out on Van Ness Ave called the Center for Special Problems.  They interviewed me, thought I was cute and gave me a bunch of hormones.  That was in March.

At the same time gay rights organizations had picket lines up in front of several businesses.

I took part in the People’s Park Riots in May.  I was so androgynous at that point people were struggling to figure out pronouns.  By early June I was sliding into full time and by mid-month I had stopped sliding in that direction and was full time.

Then at the end of June Stonewall happened.  We didn’t have the internet and it wasn’t reported in the mainstream but we had the underground press.  In the weeks that followed I read every article I could get my hands on in both the gay and straight underground press.

By the time Stonewall 30 rolled around it was hard to recognize the Stonewall I had read about in the summer of 1969 in the stories floated as facts.

It wasn’t about trans-folks. We have our own history.  It wasn’t particularly about people of color.  It wasn’t the Birth of the Gay Liberation Movement.

If anything it marked the end of the closet and the start of outness.  With the start of outness came a 50 year march toward being just a different kind of normal.

The first years of Pride Day were political.  Now they are more a party, a celebration of simply being ourselves.

And maybe that is really what Stonewall’s importance is.  A punctuation point, the start of a new chapter or a volume 2 of a series of books.

Who knows maybe a celebration is more appropriate than those who want Pride Day to be political.

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