As the highest ranking openly transgender individual in U.S. military history, Sheri Swokowski has lived a long and decorated life. But it’s also been a life where she has had to resist discrimination often. Following her retirement as a 23-year career infantry officer, she served as a lead course instructor at the U.S. Army Force Management School in Virginia. But Sheri is transgender, meaning she was born born and raised male but always knew that didn’t fit, so she transitioned to live every day as the woman she long knew herself to be. When she tried to return to work after transitioning in 2007, she was promptly fired, with no legal recourse to correct her employment discrimination. Four months later, Sheri was hired to work at the Pentagon as a senior analyst.
“When the director at the school said they had found my replacement, I realized that my skill set hadn’t changed,” Sheri said. “I was the same person I was before transition, with regard to qualifications. And while my skills must not have been good enough for the contractor – they were more than welcome at the table at the Pentagon. We need to ensure people are looking at us as individuals, hearing our experiences, and hopefully understanding it.”