Rutgers colloquium will examine the struggles of LGBT veterans
Topics will cover everything from 'don't ask don't tell' to the 'transgender ban'
The Office of Graduate Student Life and the Office of Veteran and Military Programs and Services (OVMPS) are holding a colloquium to discuss the experiences of LGBTQ veterans and active service members today.
The event will commence at 8:30 a.m. and last until 3 p.m. in the College Avenue Student Center multipurpose room, according to the agenda.
This is the third of a four-part series said Ann Treadaway, director of the OVMPS. The first parts of the series were both held at Rutgers—Newark.
“It is really hard to just have one event that really covers the entire reference of the repeal of ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ and what’s happening with the transgender ban,” Treadaway said.
At the OMVPS, the goal is not just to serve veteran and military students and their dependents but to educate the campus community about that population, she said.
A 2011 poll from Pew Research Center revealed that only 33 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 29 were related to or knew someone who had served in the military.
Treadaway said that people tend to forget that, technically, the United States is still actively deploying service members overseas.
“We really just want students to walk away having a deeper appreciation for the challenges and what is problematic about this presidential directive as it affects real people. People who are very loyal to the military and for whom the president has no right to say otherwise,” said Maren Greathouse, director of the Tyler Clementi Center.
Previously, the OVMPS held a diversity and inclusion symposium on transgender health issues, Lee said. Given the recent events related to the status of transgender military individuals, this is a relevant topic that people need should know more about.
Lee said one of the panelists attending the event, Jennifer Long, was an officer in the U.S. Army for many years and won the Gold Star award for her service in Afghanistan. She did so while transitioning from male to female.
“If she can be a good soldier and win awards under those circumstances, I think that’s a good suggestion that transgender individuals are appropriate to serve in the military,” Lee said.
The event is being held at the same time the United States Department of Defense is reviewing its policy on transgender service members, she said.
"So this event is taking place during a time where there is a lot of confusion about what the policy is and what it is going to be," Treadaway said.
Greathouse said that there will be panelists explaining the arguments being used to justify a ban on transgender service members and then talk to attendees who are in the military.
Lee said transgender people serve with honor in the military.
"As a university, it’s important for us to provide education and information about important issues and I think this is an important issue,” Lee said.
There has been a lot of hostility recently regarding this topic, Greathouse said. Students need to get the sense of how to support people in positions who are fighting for this country and at the same time being told they are not wanted.
There is a lot of misunderstanding within the general population, not just students, Lee said. The better the population is informed, the more they can know about it, and the more they can inform others so that misinformation is not perpetuated.
“Come out and support people, support their fears," Greathouse said. "Even if they’re not trans-identified or queer-identified or service members, these are your fellow peers and they deserve as much support as anyone else."
Brielle Diskin is a School of Arts and Sciences junior. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.