Not once in its 206 year history has West Point, America's oldest military academy, knowingly invited a transgender person to speak. That is, until this month when Alyson Robinson, a senior pastor, former Army Officer and transgender woman was asked to speak to two classes at the elite institution.
Rev Robinson is also a 1994 graduate of West Point, a former Baptist pastor and Army Officer. Rev. Robinson now works for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as the Associate Director of Diversity. During this visit, she represented the Transgender American Veterans Association (TAVA).
TAVA President Monica Helms and Vice President Angela Brightfeather released a statement last Monday about the historic event. According to the statement, Rev Robinson lectured at two classes in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership. An essay by Rev Robinson on her experience was also included.
In the essay Rev. Robinson discussed her feelings on returning to her alma mater.
"I had been back to West Point many times since I graduated in 1994, but not since my transition. To return not as a prodigal, but rather as an honored guest, was meaningful to me in ways that are difficult to put into words. So many transgender people are (formally or informally) disavowed by organizations and institutions that had once embraced them. To know that my alma mater, my "Rockbound Highland Home," was calling me back with honor was profoundly moving for me."
She also discussed her interactions with the Army officials when discussing Don't Ask Don't Tell:
"Colonel Tom Kolditz expressed interest in having me return to speak to future classes and...asked me a question that surprised me. "What can we do for you?"
I asked him to begin considering how the Army should treat transgender soldiers and dependents in light of the imminent repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."... I suggested that this issue would soon present itself to the Army and that the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership was naturally positioned to lead the way in making the Army fully inclusive of transgender service members. He committed to considering the issue, and I urged him to seek the advice and counsel of TAVA at the earliest opportunity."
Rev. Robinson's return follows a growing trend of greater gay and transgender acceptance throughout the military. Recent events include the dedication of a plaque to out-gay sergeant Leonard Matlovich in San Francisco, and the statement signed by over 100 retired military generals and admirals asking for the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.