Staff Sgt. Patricia King works in the headquarters of Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division. Since joining the Army in 1999, she has served three tours in Afghanistan. She started her career as a paratrooper.
There is video at the link.
I've fallen out of 34 airplanes and helicopters.
--Staff Sgt. King
She joined the Army in an attempt to deal with some issues.
I wanted to join the Army to get some perspective on myself. I wanted to shake off these feelings I had and become a man.
Didn't work. Shortly after the December suicide of Ohio teen Leelah Alcorn Staff Sgt. King came out as being a transgender woman.
King is sharing her journey to accept herself on her blog, Becoming a Butterfly.
It's not always easy. Sometimes I have challenges, but it's always worth it. These things make me a stronger person.
You have to be conceivably ready to lose everyone you ever loved. I had to be sure this is what I wanted, because I could lose everyone. It wasn't the case, but it is that drastic of a life change.
King earned the Combat Infantryman Badge in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2002. Her 10th Mountain Division unit arrived in Afghanistan three months after the 9/11 attacks and was assigned to clearing out pockets of Al Qaida and Taliban resistance.
She earned the Bronze Star Medal in 2014 while serving with Fort Carson's 4th Infantry Division in Afghanistan at the end of combat operations there.
She has a passion to be a leader.
You can't be the best leader unless you can be genuine.
She was ready for the worst when she came out to her commander and peers.
I have been met with nothing but the warmest support and that includes in my Army.
In uniform, I do not express my femininity.
I am Staff Sergeant, not Trish. We wear a unisex uniform and cosmetics are scarcely allowed for any woman.
King in recent weeks has begun therapy for gender transition. It includes counseling, doses of female hormones and laser treatments to remove facial hair.
The hormones, King said, changed everything.
I did find myself feeling normal in a way I never felt before.
King is paying out-of-pocket for the therapy. The Army has no provision for it in its ample Medical Corps.The Army accepted her new name rapidly. Her military records and identification were changed in half a day.
This letter isn't about you. This letter is about me. My name is Patricia King and I am a transgender woman.
And the Army's first openly transgender actively serving member of the infantry.
She remains a father, a soldier and a Christian. The people around her sometimes struggle.
My mom has told me her process has been two steps forward and one step back. The parent mourns the identity of the child they always knew.
Sometimes her fellow soldiers and children stumble with pronouns.
Sometimes people don't understand and there are questions that get asked.
Somewhere out there, there is a soldier, sailor or airman who is dealing with this on their own, and I want them to know they are not alone.
When I changed my name, I didn't forget how to change the alternator in a car. When I changed my name, I didn't forget infantry tactics.
She has been welcomed at her church, where she teaches Sunday school.
Look at the life I have lived - I had the opportunity to be a parent, to go to Italy and Afghanistan. I love the life I lived.
And the story I have to tell.
--Staff Sgt. Patricia King