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Congressional Hearing on Transgender Discrimination

Colonel Diane Schroer. Photo by Tom Williams.
Colonel Diane Schroer. Photo by Tom Williams.
Diane Schroer,
U.S. Army
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June 26, 2008

Today the House Education and Labor Committee's Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions held a hearing on discrimination against transgender employees. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Diane Schroer, a highly-decorated veteran who transitioned from male to female after 25 years of distinguished service in the Army, testified before the committee. Diane interviewed for a job as a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress and accepted the position, but the job offer was rescinded when she told her future supervisor that she was in the process of gender transition. The ACLU is now representing her in a Title VII sex discrimination lawsuit against the Library of Congress. This is her testimony.

My name is Diane Schroer, Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired, and I am a transgender woman. I grew up in Chicago as David Schroer with two older brothers in the most normal of loving families. I entered the U.S. Army through ROTC as a 2nd Lieutenant immediately following graduation from Northern Illinois University. I completed Ranger and Airborne School and served four years on the East-West German Border, completing three company command tours along the way. In 1987, I was an honor graduate of the U.S. Army Special Forces Qualification Course.

I served 16 years in Special Forces including tours as a detachment commander, company commander, and battalion commander, accumulating 450 parachute jumps. I participated in combat operations in Panama and Haiti as well as missions in the Middle East, Central America, Africa, and Europe. Additionally, I initiated humanitarian demining operations in Namibia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

As the Senior Assessment Director, I orchestrated the Program Objective Memorandum or "POM" for US Special Operations Command, reviewing 5,000 programs covering all aspects of Special Operations for four years. I knew every unit, piece of equipment, operation, exercise, development program, and construction project; I knew where every dollar was supposed to go and how it was spent.

Following the attacks on 9/11, I was selected to organize and direct a classified 120-person interagency organization responsible for all Department of Defense operations against the country's most significant terrorist threats and all long-term planning for the Global War on Terrorism. After almost two years of successful operations, with 25 years in the U.S. Army, I retired in January 2004.

Since my retirement, I have been intimately involved in Homeland Security, Critical Infrastructure Protection, and Maritime High-Risk Counterterrorism Operations. I currently run a small, independent consulting company that has done work for the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Coast Guard, the National Guard, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to name a few. I possess a current Top Secret, Special Compartmented Information capable security clearance, which was updated in a Periodic Review completed without issue in July 2007.

I am here today because, in Fall 2004, I applied and interviewed for the position of Specialist in Terrorism and International Crime with the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress. In December 2004, I was told I had been selected for the position and after some rapid salary negotiations, I accepted the job.

I knew that I was well-qualified for the position. The U.S. Government had spent 30 years and several million of dollars educating me and perfecting my experience in the fields of Insurgency and Counterterrorism. As an aside, I also have a personal library collection of approximately 18,000 volumes covering predominantly those subjects.

At the time I applied for the position, I was in the process of my gender transition from Dave to Diane. However, I was still legally David — meaning that all my documentation was still under the name David — and therefore, applied for the position as David. When I was offered the job by CRS in December 2004, I felt that it would cause less confusion all around if I simply started work as Diane, rather than starting as David and then transitioning to Diane. So, I invited my future supervisor at CRS to lunch so I could tell her about my plans, and help her ensure everything went smoothly.

On the day of our lunch meeting, I met my future supervisor at her office. She introduced me to several new "colleagues" as she put it, on our way out of the building. At lunch she spoke at length about my new responsibilities, which would involve preparing, publishing and informing Members about the critical issues surrounding terrorism and homeland security. During a break in her description of my new duties, I mentioned that I had a personal item I wanted to discuss with her. I asked her if she knew what it meant to be transgender, and explained that I had a female gender identity, and would be transitioning to living as a female on a full-time basis. My intent was to do this when I commenced work at CRS.

I knew that whether I was David, or Diane, I would provide excellent research support to the Congress. I had truly thought that my future supervisor at CRS would feel the same way. Yet, as we parted company following our lunch conversation, she said that "I had given her a lot to think about." And then, the following day, she called and said that "After a long and sleepless night, she decided I was not a good fit for the Library." I told her I was very disappointed to hear her say that. In 24 hours, I had gone from a welcome addition to the staff to someone who was "not a good fit" because I was a woman. Hero to zero in 24 hours.

I enlisted the assistance of the ACLU and, in June 2005, they filed suit in Federal Court on my behalf against the Library of Congress.

In its legal papers, the Library has claimed that it did not hire me because it was concerned that I would lose my colleagues in the Special Operations community as a result of my gender transition. The ironic thing is that these are precisely the people who have been only second to my family as my staunchest supporters in this fight.

The Library has claimed that it could not hire me because it was concerned I might lose my clearance, yet I hold a current TS/SCI capable clearance and continue to work on several highly classified initiatives.

The Library has claimed that it could not hire me because I would have no credibility with Members, given that a woman could not possibly know the things I know. And yet I testify in front of this committee here today.

In summary, as a Master Parachutist, honor graduate of Army Ranger School, the Special Forces Qualification Course, Command and General Staff College, and the National War College, with two Masters Degrees, having been awarded the Defense Superior Service Award, four Meritorious Service Medals, five foreign parachute qualifications, and two Expeditionary Medals for combat operations, I hope every day for the call to come from the Library saying, "We've made a tremendous mistake."

I am ready and able to serve this country once again, and look forward to the day when I am given the opportunity to do so.

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