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“Transgender in Alabama: Combat veteran, teens voice their struggles” al.com

An ongoing battle

Junea Childers is a veteran of both the U.S. military and the Alabama transgender community. Now 52 years old, the Empire resident came out as transgender 27 years ago, and she has been undergoing cross-gender hormone replacement therapy for nearly 14 years.

Childers first publicly presented as female during the 1983 conflict in Beirut, Lebanon, where she served as an operations specialist in the Navy’s intelligence corps, stationed offshore on the U.S.S. Iwo Jima. For nine months, her job required her to line up missile and gunnery targets, but one day she drove into Beirut wearing women’s clothing and went shopping at the military mall, reprising a role she had played ever since she began wearing her sisters’ dresses in elementary school.

Though Childers says she has had an inkling of her true gender identity since she was a child, she didn’t have the confidence to openly express it again until around the year 2000, when she first got an Internet connection and started meeting like-minded people in Yahoo! chatrooms.

For her, being out as transgender represents the culmination of a long, difficult process. Having been subjected to numerous derogatory statements over the years, Childers emphasizes that transgender people need strong support networks to help them through the difficult times.

“A friend helped me get my look together and get my confidence up,” she explained. “Sure, you may not be able to get your family or people you know on your side, but try and find some friends you can talk to.”

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