San Antonio, TX "Military City USA" ( SEP 24, 2018 ) American Veterans for Equal Rights ( AVER ), the nation's oldest Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender veterans service organization held its biennial convention this past weekend in Chicago. Delegates representing chapters from Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle attended the three-day conference where sessions were presented by LGBT outreach of Hines Veterans Hosptial, the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, and the John Marshall Law School Veterans Clinic, among others. Speakers included former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy, Amanda Simpson, who in 2010 became the first openly transgender woman political appointee of any Presidential administration.
Retired US Coast Guard Chief Boatswain's Mate Julz Carey was elected the new AVER National President at the convention. Fifty-nine year old Carey succeeds US Army ( ret ) Vietnam veteran LTC Steve Loomis and is the first woman to lead the veterans organization in over a decade. Carey served as one of the first women aboard a US combatant ship when the Coast Guard stationed 24 women aboard two cutters as an experiment in 1977. The success of this experiment led to the full integration of women aboard US Coast Guard and Navy vessels, and later submarines. In January, 2015, Carey and her fellow female shipmates were honored at a dedication at the Naval Memorial in Washington, DC.
At a formal military banquet on Saturday evening AVER presented its highest honor, the Leonard Matlovich Medal for Distinguished Service, to United States Navy Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kristin Beck. Beck served 20 years in the Navy, taking part in 13 deployments, including seven combat deployments. Her many decorations include a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor device. Kristin Beck, who came out as a trans woman in 2013, has become one of the nation's most prominent leaders in the fight for Transgender Service in the United States Military. The Matlovich Medal is named in honor of USAF TechSgt Leonard Matlovich who was one of the first gay service members to purposely out himself to the military to fight the ban on LGBT service members. Matlovich became one of the most public gay Americans of the 1970s and 80s before the AIDS epidemic took his life in 1988.
The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gay service was lifted in 2011, but transgender service has come under attack by the nation's current administration which would bar transgender people from serving "in any capacity." Carey reaffirmed AVER's commitment to Transgender service in her confirmation remarks. "We will not consider DADT to be fully repealed until transgender patriots are accepted as equal members of the US Armed Forces," she said. "Our service members will never feel inclusive if we are exclusive."
From a press release