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Transgender Army colonel sues Library of Congress over pulled job offer

by Nick Langewis

"Military colleagues [and] family have all been tremendously supportive," decorated veteran Diane Schroer said. "My country, which I served honorably for 25 years, has not been as tolerant or accepting."

In the fall of 2004, retired Army Colonel Schroer, née David, applied, and interviewed, for the position of Specialist in Terror and International Crime with the Library of Congress. Schroer contends the job offer was rescinded after she revealed her gender transition to her would-be supervisor. "Tremendous" disappointment, Schroer said, turned into "a mixture of anger and confusion" after the offer had been pulled. "...I had gone from a welcome addition to the staff," she said, "to 'someone who was not a good fit' -- as we used to say, 'hero to zero' -- in 24 hours."

"The Library of Congress wanted David for the job, not Diane," she said.

Schroer, 52, filed a sex discrimination lawsuit under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, in 2005. Schroer seeks reinstatement of the job offer and the legal maximum monetary award, $300,000. The Library of Congress argues that the Civil Rights Act does not offer protections for transgender people, nor does it protect based on the basis of gender identity.

Schroer garnered several honors during her career, participating in various operations in Haiti, southern Africa and Rwanda, spending 16 years in the Army's Special Forces before retiring in 2004. After the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, Schroer directed a 120-member classified body that tracked international terrorists, regularly briefing top officials including Vice President Cheney.

Schroer said that she took her future boss Charlotte Preece to lunch following the job offer in December of 2004. She explained that she was undergoing gender transition, and even brought photographs of herself en femme. The meeting ended on an "ominous" tone. According to Preece, the concern was not about Schroer's gender transition itself. The position needed to be filled quickly, she said, and Schroer's status would have required a long process between an extended background check and obtaining security clearance. She also "might not be viewed as credible" by members of Congress, Preece added.

ACLU counsel Matthew Coles noted that the fully transitioned Schroer's security clearance remains in force.

While worries were also expressed about Schroer's transition being a distraction to her work, if anything, she said, "since my transition, things have been a lot clearer.

"It feels like a big distraction has been removed from my life."

Schroer now runs a consulting firm whose clients include the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Defense. "I wait for the day the Library of Congress will call and say, 'We made a mistake, and your job is here waiting for you,'" she said, "so now I can go in and contribute 25 years of hard-earned help this country protect itself."

"In the future," she added, "I'd like transgender people not to have to worry about being transgender, because discrimination, in any form, against anyone, isn't good for the rest of us."

"Diane Schroer's story tells us that we can't afford to live in the America of the past much longer," ACLU's Coles blogged on Wednesday. "For our own sake, we have to become the America we aspire to be."

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann not only slammed the Library of Congress in his Wednesday Countdown broadcast, but he wondered how serious the Bush administration was taking its "all-consuming war on terror" if government officials were willing to disqualify a top candidate and sacrifice one's expertise over her gender identity.

"We're talking about a desk job in [counterterrorism] research for the Library of Congress," said Olbermann, "not a commando trying to go over a wall in high heels. And the applicant had a better resume than the Secretary of Homeland Security."

"Does the [Bush Administration]," he went on, "really believe we need an all-consuming 'war on terror,' or are its internal assessments of the threats a lot less serious than it lets on, and that's why it's much more worried about whether Diane the terror expert used to be 'Dave'?"

Video of Olbermann's segment appears below, followed by Diane Schroer's story, as posted by the ACLU's LGBT Project. Finally, embedded is video of Schroer's testimony (beginning at 3:30) during Congress' historic hearing, "An Examination of Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace," on June 26, 2008.


Originally published on Thursday August 21, 2008.

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