Lesbian sergeant sues US military after boss pressured her to ‘appear more feminine’
A lesbian member of the National Guard is suing the US Army and Air Force after her boss allegedly pressured her to “appear more feminine”.
Kristin M Kingrey of the West Virginia Air National Guard (WVNG) said she lost out on two jobs after repeated comments that she should grow her hair and wear make-up, according to a report by the Daily Beast.
Technical sergeant Kingrey, 37, filed a lawsuit on 23 November 2021 against the army she has worked in for nearly 14 years over comments made by a senior male leader.
Kingrey told the Daily Beast that a job she had successfully applied for was withdrawn after the comments were made, and that in another instance she was not hired for a position she was more than qualified for.
She said: “From 2016 to 2018, I was constantly being pulled into my seniors’ offices being told my hair was out of regs [non-regulation].
“It crossed a line into harassment, and I carried on my person a copy of our regulations in regards to female hair length because I was not breaking any rules.”
The lawsuit claims that the sergeant was subject to “continued harassment, discrimination, and retaliation based upon her sex, including her sexual orientation and perceived gender nonconformity.”
Kingrey alleged the incident that sparked the lawsuit happened when a senior leader, vice wing commander colonel Michael Cadle, asked a female lieutenant colonel to encourage Kingrey to begin appearing more feminine.
Kingrey said it was implied she should “grow my hair out and start wearing makeup because if I didn’t, it would be detrimental to my career in the West Virginia Air National Guard”.
She added: “I had heard of other females with short hair having issues with people saying things, but I don’t know that progressed to the extent mine did. My hair length has nothing do with my work ethic or job performance.
“Initially I was embarrassed. I could not believe that not fitting their mould of how I should look would truly impact my career. It was devastating.”
After the comments were made, the lesbian sergeant said that a job that had been verbally offered to her was suddenly longer no longer available because of an alleged funding cut.
The role was then re-advertised.
Mike Hissam, Kingrey’s attorney, said she is seeking the job offer back, as well as an apology from colonel Cadle.
He said: “We would want reinstatement and back pay… Kristin should get the position she applied for and would have gotten had it not been for the unlawful discrimination she suffered. That’s the outcome she wants.”
Kingrey told the Daily Beast: “The whole thing has made me feel that I don’t belong, and that my career will be hindered. But I have not considered quitting. I will not be defeated.
“They are not going to make me leave something that I truly love, and I truly love putting on the uniform every single day. I love my country, and I love my state, and I have served them both honourably for over 14 years.”
Holli R Nelson of the West Virginia Air National Guard told PinkNews in a statement: “The WVNG is fully committed to an inclusive and diverse workforce free from harassment.
“As a matter of policy, the WVNG does not comment on matters that are currently pending in litigation. But generally, the WVNG advised an outside agency who is charged with conducting investigations that are prompt, fair, and impartial in matters like this one.
“They produced a report with the factual record, and it was determined that no discrimination and/or harassment occurred. As such, we are continuing the process to present the facts to fully resolve this matter in the court system.”
A US Army spokesperson told the Daily Beast: “As a matter of policy, the Army does not comment on ongoing litigation.”
Kingrey told the Daily Beast that she is still “committed” to her career in the military.
“I just want to go through my career on a fair basis,” she said.
“I’ve never asked for favouritism just because I am from the LGBTQ community. I just want to be allowed to continue my military career based on my own merits and off my work ethic.”