Two transgender soldiers at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri are set to retire with a rare distinction — they transitioned fully while on active duty and will be honorably discharged with full pensions.
“Open transgender service in the military is becoming more commonplace and accepted, but the number of those who are honorably discharged into full retirement and transitioned while on active duty remains low,” explains a press release from Missouri LGBTQ+ rights group PROMO.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who served under President Barack Obama, lifted the ban on open service by trans troops in 2016, but Donald Trump reinstated it during his presidency, with it going into effect in 2019. President Joe Biden lifted the ban shortly after taking office in 2021.
“We were forced to ask ourselves whether we wanted to deny who we were and serve, in the hopes that one day it would change, or whether we should wait to serve entirely until it did change,” Army Staff Sgt. Alleria Stanley, a trans woman stationed at Fort Leonard Wood who will retire February 28, said in the press release.
Stanley and Army Sgt. First Class Kinzie Maxfield, also a trans woman, both participated in Fort Leonard Wood’s Retiree Appreciation Day celebration last Thursday. Maxfield will retire December 31. The two are part of the small but growing group who transitioned on active duty and will retire with full benefits after being honorably discharged. Both have served 20 years under four presidents — George W. Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden.
Stanley is a radiology technologist within the Army and deployed to Afghanistan as an Apache helicopter repairer in 2005. “Being one’s authentic self is incredibly empowering and uplifting affecting parts of your life that are unrelated to being transgender,” she said in the release. “One of the stronger memories I have since serving openly and living authentically is the scores of people who have come up to me to either come out themselves, to share a story of someone they know, or to ask for advice on how to approach a relationship they have with LGBTQ+ friends and family.”
Maxfield is a military dog handler who deployed to Afghanistan four times and was awarded the Purple Heart. “I have had a great experience in my current unit, but before coming out I was absolutely terrified that people would not treat me the same,” she said. “I was an excellent dog trainer and did really high-speed deployments. I was afraid that was going to change. However, all of my commanders were very supportive, helping me with all the necessary paperwork while always treating me with respect and dignity.”