Back on September 20, 2011, when Don't Ask Don't Tell ended, ending the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, many of us wondered what would become of OutServe and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. After all, why would we need to have those organizations anymore?
Beyond the publishing of OutServe Magazine, a bimonthly periodical digital and print publication, what was the organization going to do?
Well, for awhile there were minor problems that the organizations got involved with, such as the ability of spouses of LGB service members to join base organizations for military spouses, to obtain services at base commissaries, etc, but the main function of the organizations seemed to have been accomplished.
All except that thorny issue of the fact that transgender people were still not allowed to serve in the military, not by act of Congress, but because of military regulations. Specifically, transgender persons can be prohibited from entering the service because of medical regulations, which disallow service by any potential service member who has had genital surgery, and mental health regulations, because the military considers being transgender to be a mental condition akin to pedophilia, kleptomania, and other conditions which render the individual unsuitable.
Additionally transgender individuals who are already serving in the military cannot seek medical support to transition because those same regulations would call for them to be criminally prosecuted and discharged. And the military also considers cross-dressing to be a violation of uniform and grooming standards which would result in discipline, discharge, and/or criminal prosecution.
In October, 2012, OutServe and SLDN merged. On October 25, 2012, recognizing the new focus that would be required of the organization, the newly merged organization selected Allyson Robinson to be its Executive Director. Robinson became the first transperson to ever lead a national LGBT rights organization that does not have a strictly transgender focus.
Robinson majored in physics at West Point, graduating in 1994. After an internship at Los Alamos, she commanded a Patriot missile unit in Europe and the Middle East. She left the Army in 1999. She then became ordained as a Baptist minister, earning master of divinity degree from Baylor. In 2008 she was a guest lecturer at West Point.
She became the first Deputy Director of Employee Programs for the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, creating the curriculum for LGBT training in the workplace. She was in that position when tapped by OutServe-SLDN.
She has also been a member of the boards of directors of the International Foundation for Gender Education, the Association for welcoming and Affirming Baptists, and Knights Out.
She has been married since 1994. She and her wife have four children.
Okay, that's the background.
On Saturday, Robinson was reportedly asked to resign. In protest other senior staffers and some board members have quit in protest to that move.
The reason given for the board's action was alternatively given to be "fundraising problems, "leadership deficiencies," "personality conflicts", and "anti-transgender bias."
Director of External Engagement Zeke Stokes, Director of Chapter and Member Services Gary Espinas, and David McKean, Legal and Public Policy Director, have all resigned in protest of Robinson's termination.In addition, several board members have resigned: Sue Fulton, Beth Schissel and Matthew Phelps.
Most Executive Directors are given at least a year to get their feet wet and get ensconced in their positions. Robinson has only been the head of OutServe/SLDN for approximately nine months.
Today, the Board of Directors made decisions that have compromised the trust I had placed in it heretofore. They have chosen a direction that is inconsistent with what I believe is necessary to secure a successful future for the organization. In doing so, they have for the foreseeable future sacrificed the viability of the mission.
For that reason, I can no longer represent OutServe-SLDN to the public or to our members and donors. Thus, effective today, I have resigned as a member of the staff and wish to no longer be affiliated with the organization.
For the rest of my life, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to serve our nation's LGBT military community; however, the actions of this board are not worthy of their service and sacrifice. I choose to honor them with my resignation effective today.
While the details of this story are still somewhat murky, it seems that there was a movement underway by some in the board of directors to remove Robinson for a reason yet unknown, but possibly tied to the resignation of longtime Chief Financial Officer Francisco Ramirez last month.On the side of those cheering is former OutServe Magazine editor David Small, who resigned last January.
Here are some reactions from the trans point of view. These are not quotes, but me paraphrasing…and perhaps adding something of my own in combining some views.
* Hmmm. LGB people think that OutServe-SLDN has done its job and doesn't need any more donations. So since donations are dependent upon transgender donors, and transpeople pretty much don't have money to give, we should fire the tranny.
* The trans community will see this as as an attempt to make the organization trans-free. If that is not the purpose, they better come up with a very, very good story.
* OutServe-SLDN has gone from being a model of inclusion for true LGBT advocacy to another wedge group.
* We can only conclude that the organization has no love for the trans community. Once again the T will be sacrificed for the LG.
* The resignation of all the top staff makes this stink to high heavens.
And many of us are very disappointed, but want to wait and see.