(UPDATE 8:15AM) When President Obama signed the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on Dec. 22, 2010, most in the packed emotional room realized that the mission of full equality was unfulfilled. But the fact that DADT repeal didn’t cover trans servicemembers at all was left to another day.
That day may have just arrived.
On Wednesday night, Oct. 24, on the eve of the first conference of the newly merged OutServe-SLDN, the national organization that represents LGBT military personnel announced the selection of Army veteran Allyson Robinson as their new executive director. Apparently, some extraordinary candidates applied – and Robinson proved to be the best.
“I am honored to lead the new OutServe-SLDN into this next phase of advocacy and action on behalf of our brave LGBT service members, veterans, and their families. Until they are guaranteed equal opportunity, recognition, support, and benefits, our mission is incomplete. We cannot and will not leave them behind,” Robinson, who departs her position at Human Rights Campaign to start Thursday, said in a press release.
What is not mentioned until three-quarters through the press release documenting her impressive qualifications (see the full release below) is that the 1994 West Point graduate (where she majored in physics) and Army veteran is a transgender woman – who also lives with her wife of 18 years and their four children in Gaithersburg, MD.
Of course, trans issues will be one of many areas Robinson will tackle to achieve full equality for all servicemembers. She said in the statement:
“The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ taught us that to be victorious, we must fight inequality on multiple fronts – in the courts, on Capitol Hill, and in the public square. It’s time to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, revise laws that prevent the military from honoring the service of all of our nation’s men and women in uniform, and end marriage discrimination for our service members and their families once and for all….
“We cannot stop until we reach the day when all qualified Americans who wish to wear the uniform of our armed forces have the opportunity to do so with honor and integrity – and without fear of discrimination or harassment – whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.”
Also not mentioned in the press release announcing her historic selection is that Robinson has a Master of Divinity degree in theology and is an ordained Baptist minister. She maintains a personal blog called Cross the T in which she shares her deeply religious Christian convictions. She writes:
I see myself as a transgendered woman who’s trying to follow Christ through the world, a pilgrimage that is both easier and harder than I expected it to be. Along the way, harmonizing the many facets of my personhood has been one of the most fulfilling way I’ve found to express my commitment to God and my neighbor. I’d like to help others do the same.
But apart from her breadth and depth of experience, Robinson has a deep commitment to serving and leading LGBT servicemembers because the Army was “our family business:”
Thursday morning, OutServe-SLDN released a video introducing Robinson, who also gave an exclusive interview to Chris Geidner of Buzzfeed:
Here’s the full press release:
(WASHINGTON, DC) Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and OutServe, the association of actively serving LGBT military personnel, today announced the selection of Army veteran Allyson Robinson to lead the newly combined organization. Robinson assumes the post as the two organizations are slated to finalize their combination this weekend. The combination was announced in July.
“I am honored to lead the new OutServe-SLDN into this next phase of advocacy and action on behalf of our brave LGBT service members, veterans, and their families. Until they are guaranteed equal opportunity, recognition, support, and benefits, our mission is incomplete. We cannot and will not leave them behind,” said Robinson, who departs her position at Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to take the helm of the new organization today.
A native of Scranton, PA, Robinson is a 1994 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she majored in physics. After an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory, she was commissioned as an officer in the Army and commanded PATRIOT missile units in Europe and the Middle East. She also served as a senior trainer/evaluator for NATO and as an advisor to the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
Robinson resigned her commission in 1999 to pursue a calling to Christian ministry, serving as pastor-teacher to churches in the Portuguese Azores and central Texas. She earned a master of divinity degree in theology with a capstone emphasis in social justice from Baylor University in 2007.
Most recently, as the first Deputy Director for Employee Programs of the HRC Foundation’s Workplace Project, Robinson drove the design and delivery of HRC’s broad portfolio of training and curricula for corporate leadership and employee audiences to improve LGBT cultural competence and inclusion in the workplace.
She lives with her wife of 18 years and their four children in Gaithersburg, MD.
“Allyson Robinson is exactly the right person at the right time to be our leader and voice in Washington in the fight to achieve full LGBT equality in the military. She comes with an exemplary military background, strong political and policy acumen, and a deep commitment and vision for bringing about the changes needed to carry forward the work we began with the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” said April Heinze, retired Navy captain and co-chair of the SLDN Board of Directors.
Representing seven plaintiff same-sex military couples – each legally married — SLDN filed a federal court challenge in October 2011 to the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and other federal laws that prevent the military from providing equal recognition, benefits and support to all service members and their families. Robinson said today that among her priorities will be accelerating the fight for equal support and benefits for all service members.
“The repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ taught us that to be victorious, we must fight inequality on multiple fronts – in the courts, on Capitol Hill, and in the public square. It’s time to pass the Respect for Marriage Act, revise laws that prevent the military from honoring the service of all of our nation’s men and women in uniform, and end marriage discrimination for our service members and their families once and for all,” Robinson said.
Robinson, who is transgender, also vowed to continue the important work necessary to bringing about full LGBT equality in the military.
“We cannot stop until we reach the day when all qualified Americans who wish to wear the uniform of our armed forces have the opportunity to do so with honor and integrity – and without fear of discrimination or harassment – whether they are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender,” Robinson said.
In addition to advancing the mission of full equality in the military, Robinson will lead a newly-formed organization with an expanded mission, the result of the combination of SLDN and OutServe, which currently boasts 6000 members worldwide.
“From the moment I met Allyson, I knew she was the right leader for OutServe-SLDN,” said Josh Seefried, co-founder and co-director of OutServe. “As someone who graduated from West Point, deployed multiple times and has dedicated her life to advancing social justice, she will relate to service members and supporters and lead this organization to a new level. She is a professional of unparalleled experience and will earn the respect and admiration of LGBT service members right away.”
SLDN and OutServe conducted a national search in coordination with the firm, McCormack & Associates, based in Los Angeles, CA.
What They’re Saying About Allyson Robinson
“Allyson’s exceptional résumé, her experience in the LGBT movement, and her military credentials have prepared her well for the task ahead of us. We need a leader of her caliber in this important role as we take the next steps toward our ultimate goal, which is securing full LGBT equality in our military.” – Michael Magee, SLDN Board of Directors Co-Chair.
“Allyson will bring a new perspective and enthusiasm – as well as a deep commitment – as we enter the next phase of the fight for full LGBT equality in the armed forces.” Aubrey Sarvis, Army veteran and outgoing SLDN Executive Director.
“Allyson Robinson is strategic, passionate, and committed. She’s the right person to lead this organization. She’s a graduate of West Point and a decorated military officer, which makes her uniquely qualified for this position.” – Chad Griffin, President Human Rights Campaign.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us at OS-SLDN, and we need a strategic, smart, dynamic leader who is strong both inside and outside the Beltway. Allyson fits the bill perfectly. She understands the importance of faith and family, especially within the LGBT and military communities, and will be able to get things done.” – Sue Fulton, Executive Director, Knights Out
ABOUT SLDN: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) is a non-partisan, non-profit, legal services and policy organization dedicated to bringing about full LGBT equality to America’s military and ending all forms of discrimination and harassment of military personnel on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. SLDN provides free and direct legal assistance to service members and veterans affected by the repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law and the prior regulatory ban on open service, as well as those currently serving who may experience harassment or discrimination. Since 1993, our in- house legal team has responded to more than 12,000 requests for assistance. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members with questions are urged to contact the SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: Call 1-800-538-7418 or 202-328-3244 x100.
ABOUT OUTSERVE: OutServe is the association of actively-serving LGBT military personnel. With more than 6,000 members and 50+ chapters worldwide, it is one of the largest LGBT employee resource groups in the world. OutServe works to support a professional network of LGBT military personnel and create an environment of respect in the military with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity. Formore information, visit www.outserve.org