Veteran strives to make difference in the transgender community

Veteran Spotlight

Veteran strives to make difference in the transgender community

Shanice Davis, Features Editor


Three years ago, service member Emmy Williamson, now a transgender woman, was not who she was meant to be. Due to social constraints and her own personal struggles, she decided to part ways from the military.

Williamson served in the Navy from 2006 to 2012. She was young when she enrolled, lacked direction and was in a situation she didn’t want to be in.

“I wasn’t ready to go to college and I didn’t take the time to stop and think about that, so I kind of trapped myself into a situation that I couldn’t get out of easily and I saw the military as a way out,” said Williamson, “I wanted to find some kind of purpose and direction for myself.”

Although Williamson didn’t fully enjoy her time in the military, she said there are some things she misses such as traveling, which she says she thoroughly enjoyed when she was deployed.

“I went on the Western Pacific deployment in 2007 from January to July. We did some exercises off the coast of North Korea—we had port visits through Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore [and] Guam. We also went to South Korea and then Hawaii,” said Williamson.

There was still something missing and it was an ongoing battle that Williamson had been fighting for years. However, the military made a huge step towards initiating change within their environment during the time she served.

“I was serving when they announced the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ and that was probably one of the more bittersweet moments during my service time,” said Williamson.

Before it was repealed, the rule, “…basically criminalized homosexuality in the military; it said you’re allowed to be gay as long as you don’t talk about it and we’re not allowed to ask about it,” said Williamson. “…if you did come forth vocally, your command could kick you out solely based on that. There were also a lot of witch hunts and a lot of asking when there should not have been.”

But in her experience, it was more so about whether or not the person could work and get the job done, as opposed to “‘Oh you’re gay, you can’t do anything and you’re not very useful,’” said Williamson.

Even with the monumental step forward, Williamson was on the fence about coming out due to the disregard towards the transgender population.

“I was not out while serving. I was very closeted, even after “don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed. If you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual, you can come out, it was perfectly fine. You can gain recognition for your marriage; you can gain recognition for relationships, survivors benefits. You can talk about your relationship openly and not be afraid of having the wrong person hear and then you get kicked out,” said Williamson.

“But still, transgender service members do not have that option and there are several serving now that are trapped,” said Williamson.

However, a year before she was out of the military, she began transitioning because the procedure was something she deemed necessary as she considered it “a matter of life and death.”

“I unofficially started transitioning in about 2011, exploring my self and finding out who I am, dressing as myself and going out a few times here and there. When I separated [from the military] in 2012, I started to go out as myself more (presenting female more) and then I officially came out full-time last fall when I started [attending CSUSM],” said Williamson.

“There’s really no way around it. It’s something I have known about for years, for more than a decade and it has been something I’ve been fighting against for twice as long. Finally, you get to a point where you accept it and you can start that transition,” she said.

Williamson is now a mother of three and a student majoring in History. She intends on pursuing her master’s and possibly her doctorate degree, but is uncertain and prefers to take life one day at a time.

As for the military, Williamson is grateful for the experience and learning many valuable skills that have transcribed into her life as a civilian. In the future, she wants to see change and equality for all service members.

Although she loves being out at sea and traveling the world, her decision to stop serving in the military is one she describes as bittersweet because she was able to set herself free.

“Getting out of the military was one of the biggest moments, when I was finally able to become who I am.”