When President Obama signed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” on Dec. 22, 2010, most in the packed emotional room realized that the mission of full equality was unfulfilled. But the fact that DADT repeal didn’t cover transgender servicemembers at all was left to another day.
That day may have just arrived. And it’s historic.
On Oct. 24, the newly merged OutServe-SLDN that represents LGBT military personnel announced the selection of Army veteran Allyson Robinson as its new executive director. Apparently, some extraordinary candidates applied—and Robinson proved to be the best.
“I am honored to lead the new OutServe-SLDN into this next phase of advocacy and action on behalf of our brave LGBT servicemembers, veterans and their families. Until they are guaranteed equal opportunity, recognition, support and benefits, our mission is incomplete. We cannot and will not leave them behind,” Robinson, who left her position at Human Rights Campaign to start immediately, said in a press release.
What is not mentioned until three-quarters through the press release documenting her impressive qualifications is that the 1994 West Point graduate (where she majored in physics) and Army veteran is a transgender woman—who also lives with her wife of 18 years and their four children in Gaithersburg, Md.
Of course, trans issues will be one of many areas Robinson will tackle to achieve full equality for all servicemembers.
“The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ taught us that to be victorious, we must fight inequality on multiple fronts—in the courts, on Capitol Hill and in the public square. It’s time to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, revise laws that prevent the military from honoring the service of all of our nation’s men and women in uniform and end marriage discrimination for our servicemembers and their families once and for all,” she said. “We cannot stop until we reach the day when all qualified Americans who wish to wear the uniform of our armed forces have the opportunity to do so with honor and integrity—and without fear of discrimination or harassment—whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.”
Robinson has a Master of Divinity degree in theology and is an ordained Baptist minister. She maintains a personal blog called “Cross the T,” in which she shares her deeply religious Christian convictions. “I see myself as a transgendered woman who’s trying to follow Christ through the world, a pilgrimage that is both easier and harder than I expected it to be,” she writes. “Along the way, harmonizing the many facets of my personhood has been one of the most fulfilling ways I’ve found to express my commitment to God and my neighbor. I’d like to help others do the same.”
Robinson has a deep commitment to serving and leading LGBT servicemembers, because, she told an interviewer, the Army was “our family business.”
The depth and breadth of experience for the Scranton, Penn., native includes graduating from West Point, interning at Los Alamos National Laboratory, serving as a commissioned officer in the Army and commanding PATRIOT missile units in Europe and the Middle East, serving as a senior trainer/evaluator for NATO and as an advisor to the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
Robinson resigned her commission in 1999, according to the press release, to pursue a calling to Christian ministry, serving as pastor-teacher to churches in the Portuguese Azores and central Texas. She earned a Master of Divinity degree in theology with a capstone emphasis in social justice from Baylor University in 2007. Robinson subsequently worked as the first deputy director for employee programs of the Human Rights Foundation’s Workplace Project.
“Allyson Robinson is exactly the right person at the right time to be our leader and voice in Washington in the fight to achieve full LGBT equality in the military. She comes with an exemplary military background, strong political and policy acumen and a deep commitment and vision for bringing about the changes needed to carry forward the work we began with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said April Heinze, retired Navy captain and co-chair of the SLDN Board of Directors.
“From the moment I met Allyson, I knew she was the right leader for OutServe-SLDN,” said Josh Seefried, co-founder and co-director of OutServe. “As someone who graduated from West Point, was deployed multiple times and who has dedicated her life to advancing social justice, she will relate to servicemembers and supporters and lead this organization to a new level. She is a professional of unparalleled experience and will earn the respect and admiration of LGBT servicemembers right away.”
Go to tinyurl.com/8cd6zuu to see two videos of Robinson talking about her life and new position at OutServe-SLDN.