Landon Wilson, transgender US Navy Veteran

by Landon Wilson | US Navy veteran
Thursday, 27 September 2018 12:01 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

When the U.S. military ban on transgender people came into effect, Wilson had a choice: give up his military or his gender identity

By Hugo Greenhalgh

Landon Wilson, was a U.S. Navy cryptologist when he was taken aside by his superior and questioned about his gender. In late November, the process began to remove Wilson, who worked 12-hour shifts intercepting communications onsite in Afghanistan. Problems arose after a mooted promotion revealed conflicting sets of personnel records.

The U.S. military ban on transgender people serving in March 2018 resulted in Wilson being offered a choice, either he could give up his military or his gender identity.

He made a choice, was released with an honourable discharge soon afterwards. This came several years after the 2011 repeal of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, which allowed LGBT individuals to openly express their identities during military service. After his honourable discharge, Wilson has been an advocate for including the otherwise overlooked “T” in this policy.

Since then, Wilson has switched gears, and turned to classroom inequities, advocating for student rights in the public school classroom through work with national non-profits. Students are taught that “they are able to be the change-makers and to advocate for themselves”.

“When students are aware of their own rights and have people in their corner to celebrate their victories, we get closer to creating a just society and, of course, a more affirming classroom,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Students who identify as LGBT+ suffer from a higher drop-out rate than their peers, and disproportionate numbers end up in jail. Wilson, however, is keen to address these issues.

“I think it's important to consider the power language has, for everyone. No matter how a person communicates, the language we have is used to share who we are with the world.

“Education can be done in a variety of ways”, he added. “But I will always default to saying that if we don't know what kind of language to use about or with a person, ask that person.”

However, Wilson is clear that “it also isn't the responsibility of the LGBT+ person to do all of the educating”.

Language has a real effect on the way our society is shaped, he added.

“Language also contributes to the representation of people within the media. As of September 2018, more than 20 known transgender people have been murdered; the majority of those individuals were transgender women of colour.

“We cannot work towards ensuring safety, access, and justice for everyone until we can fully and wholly see a person, and language helps in doing that. Language helps us celebrate people while they are here, respectfully and in a way that is empowering. We all deserve that.”

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