06 July 2013

A General Supports A Transition In Australia

Yesterday I wrote about someone who defended the rights of transgender prisoners in New Zealand.  Today, I'm going to remain in the same part of the world, if you will--and show another example of an enlightened attitude toward transgender people.

Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor of the Australian Defense Force wrote a stirring speech for her supervisor, Lietenant General David Morrison.  That, in itself, may not seem remarkable:  After all, who can feel more righteous indignation over sexism in the military than someone who's experienced it.  Also, Lt. Col. McGregor is a world-renowned cricket writer.

What makes this story so--well, moving--is, aside from Lt. Gen. Morrison's delivery of the speech, the incidents that prompted it, and courageous actions he took in response to them.

Apparently, an army e-mail ring distributed degrading images of women--both in and out of the military--who, they believed, could be exploited for sex.  Morrison said, in no uncertain terms, that there is "simply no place" for such sexism, or bigotry of any kind.  "Those who think it's OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleague have no place in this army," Morrison warned his troops by video.  Then, he advised, "Show moral courage and take a stand against it."

Before making that speech, he actually did what he expected the people under his command to do.  You see, Cate McGregor was actually given the name Malcolm at birth and joined the Army under that name.  When she "came out" to Morrison, she tendered her resignation because she didn't want to "cause embarrasment" to his office.

What was Morrison's response? "I want you to know that I'm privileged that you could tell me about the crisis you're facing and I will be with you every step of the way."

When an American military commander can say something like that to a service member under his or her command, the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will finally be complete.  Until then, we will have to look to countries like Australia to find commanders like Morrison who realize that they need every good soldier, sailor, airman/woman or other service member they can get, and that the military can't survive as a "demographic ghetto" or "a smokestack industry in a changing world."

In a way, none of this is surprising.  After all, in the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I, both the British and the Ottomans realized that the Australians knew what it took to train good soldiers and build a good fighting force.  Both sides respected their prowess.  Now the whole world can respect the judgment of folks like Lieutenant General Morrison.

No comments: