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Wrongful Discharge of Transgender Navy Officer

$10,000 of $60,000 goal

Raised by 106 people in 3 months
On October 20th, 2016 I was one of the first US Navy sailors who was finally allowed to transition while on active duty. That day, I put on my female uniform for the first time, and then I got got back to work. The long battle to be allowed to serve seemed over, and just 4 months later I was heading to the fleet to do the job I volunteered to do. My lifelong dream of serving in the military finally had no more roadblocks.

On June 12th, 2017 I was called to a meeting with my Commanding Officer, and was told I had to pack my things and be off the ship in one hour. He gave me no reason, and I had no idea what was happening. A week later, I finally learned that I had been falsely accused of groping a transphobic officer who I had originally believed was an ally.

There was a full 6 month NCIS investigation which found no credible evidence and recommended no further action. However, my Commanding Officer decided to hold a Non-Judicial Punishment hearing anyway, and he decided that I was guilty. After the NJP, and after I was denied my appeal, my CO's superior recommended I be discharged from the Navy. I fought that too, but eventually it came down to a choice I was offered: resign or be forcefully separated. I "chose" to resign with dignity, but the misconduct was placed on my permanent record, and my discharge was not the full Honorable discharge I should have received.

Because of the bogus misconduct noted in my file, I have been denied jobs since exiting the military. My integrity will not allow me to withhold this part of my military career from potential employers, no matter how false it is. Currently I have only been able to find a low wage hourly job where I have to work 70+ hours a week just to stay ahead of my bills.

To add on to all of this, the Navy has now sent me a bill for $59,621.62, to pay back my education because I was not able to serve my entire obligation. If I had been discharged due to medical or some other involuntary reason, I would not have to pay this back. However, because I was discharged for "misconduct," they say that I owe this debt.

I already have about $30k in debt from when I was dumb with credit cards and from when I began transition and paid for my new wardrobe and out-of-pocket hormones. I'm not asking for money to pay that. That is my debt, and I take responsibility for it. I just can not afford to pay my debts and my bills while also having a $60k debt looming over my head from a discharge that I did nothing to deserve.

It is with deep embarrassment and desperation that I create this GoFundMe. I do not like asking for money, but I am near the end of my rope. I no longer have hope of paying for surgery to complete my transition. I may never be able to afford adopting children. I may never even be able to afford a house. $90k is a very big hole to dig out of when the only job that will hire you is $13 an hour.

I am a survivor of multiple sexual assaults. I fought for 2 years just to be allowed to stay in the military after transition. I am also not a physically driven or intimate person. So to think that I would throw away a lifetime of working towards a military career just to grope someone when I myself know the very real pain of sexual assault, it is absolutely ridiculous.

All I ever wanted was to serve in the military as myself. When I was actually allowed to do the job I signed up for, I thrived and worked hard every day for my sailors and for my command. The false accusations against me were a blindsiding blow to every hope and dream I ever had, and I may never know why that person had it out for me.

Now, my goal is to move on and find something else to work hard towards. I need a clean slate, and I am doing everything in my power to keep this mountain of debt that I did not earn from burying me and ruining the rest of my life.

Thank you for reading my story, and if you have any questions I am always willing to talk. I am an open book, and promise to answer honestly
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I want to quickly talk about the NJP process and how it can easily fail sailors. This is important whether you believe me to be innocent or not.

At my NJP, I was basically told what I was accused of, had 10 minutes to review the huge NCIS report and my accuser's statements, and then I had to defend myself. Well if you didn't do anything, how on earth would you have any evidence to prove your innocence? Especially when it took a month before I was even told that I was actually being accused, two months to tell me what day the alleged assault happened, and six months for me to even learn specifically what my accuser said I did. By the time I knew the when, where, and what of the accusations, any witnesses I could have had speak on my behalf had literally forgotten about me. I even called my department head to see if he could corroborate my whereabouts on the day in question, and his response was literally "who are you again?"

In my NJP, the burden of evidence was solely on me. I couldn't face my accuser, I couldn't request a court martial to have an impartial judge, I couldn't have anyone (JAG or otherwise) even present with me at NJP during the proceedings, and since it was all "by the book," the CSG denied my appeal. So the end result was that PERS decided I should be kicked out, and DFAS gave me what essentially amounts to a heafty fine. Each step of the way, I was given opportunity to submit statements in my defense, and with each I one sounded like a broken record of "I did not do this, there is no evidence, the burden of proof is supposed to be on the accuser, etc."

Any sailor could be accused, and they could be railroaded out in the exact same way. So while it is important to me that my innocence is proven, it should be important to anyone who cares about justice that this kind of thing can happen to any sailor, regardless of their actual innocence or guilt.

The 4th amendment is meaningless when the US military can skirt around it by calling this "administrative" and "non-judicial".
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It is really amazing to me how quickly my story is spreading through news articles and Facebook groups. Thank you again everyone so much for helping me out! I know that a lot of people have had questions about the specifics of my case because there are some things I may have simplified or that just don't make sense. Please stand by for more detailed information coming out over the next several days.

Unfortunately, I have a little bit of bad news. I just got another bill from DFAS, and even after they told me on the phone that I could make small payments of whatever I could afford to avoid going into collections they are now saying that because I didn't make the first $1700 monthly payment, everything is due in full at the end of February or else it will go to collections.

Also, the total is now $63,327.70, due in full in just 19 days. Apparently due to their own miscalculations, they paid me $3600 too much last year and they want that back too.
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Wow. Just wow. I am floored by the love and support I've gotten in just a couple of days. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Today I talked to DFAS (the part of the government that deals with military pay, and is in charge of my debt), and confirmed that while I am working with legal support to find a way to erase this debt, I can make small monthly payments to avoid going into collections. I don't think I'll be able to pay the full $1700/month that they have set as the minimum payment, so my credit score is about to plummet, but at least I'll be able to show them that I am trying, and that should help in the long run.

It's been an especially rough 2-3 weeks because I just started a new job. I enjoy it, but am constantly exhausted, and because paychecks are delayed by a week, I went for a couple weeks without any income due to training and then working, but not seeing that pay until the end of the following week. I'm behind on my rent, and have had to find creative ways to afford food these last few days, but it is weird how happy I still am.

I just watched The Bill Murray Stories (I highly recommend it), and his life and legacy really just make my heart smile. In it, the narrator mentioned a Chinese proverb about a man whose life is a rollercoaster of up and down, but his constant response is "who knows what is good and what is bad." I'm not even sure exactly when, but I adopted this same attitude in my life a few years ago. I have become very stoic in the last few years, and as a result have had much less stress than I probably would have. Sure I definitely still struggle with depression and anxiety, but all in all I am quite even keel. With almost every bit of bad news I've received throughout this time, starting with losing my pilot billet almost 3.5 years ago until the most recent struggles to pay for basic needs, I have been able to shrug off much of the worry.

I don't know if I can ever repay the kindness you all are showing me, but I do know that one day my life will be much better than it is now, and I will be able to pass it on and help someone else who is struggling.
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$10,000 of $60,000 goal

Raised by 106 people in 3 months
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$1,000
GoFundMe Team
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Barbara Sheridan
1 month ago
$250
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2 months ago
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2 months ago
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$50
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