Aylett, VA

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My name is Donna. I am a reverend and a motorcyclist. I served 22 years in the army as a cavalry scout.  I am retired now, but I was a police officer, detective, and licensed master electrician.  I am also a transgender woman.


As a child, I knew I was different, but there wasn’t a lot of information or terminology in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. I felt a lot of social pressures to not be myself, so I did what was expected of me. Then I joined the army. I jumped out of planes and people shot at me. I was never really afraid of dying and, in fact, for many years even after the army I was just sort of waiting for it to happen. I wasn’t happy, so I wasn’t putting much effort into living my life. Then a few years ago, I almost died of a double kidney stone and I had a moment of clarity. I wanted to live, I wanted to be happy, and being myself was the only way to do that. Now I get to be me, and I thank God every day that I get to be Donna. I feel I have so much to live for because I get to live the rest of my life as myself.


I feel like trans people are misunderstood. I know this feels new to a lot of people, even though trans people have existed throughout history. Put plainly, we’re just regular people and we just want to go about our lives like everyone else. I wanted to share my story because I feel a responsibility to my community to help us get to equal footing. I recognize that I’m fortunate because I’m retired and I live with my loving, supportive wife in our home. Young trans folks who are just starting their lives don’t have security in finding jobs or homes. Older trans people may lose their jobs for coming out or struggle to find housing if they separate from a partner. Every one of us has to consider what we would do if a restaurant owner kicked us out or a retail manager told us we aren’t welcome. There is no safety net for us. We need nondiscrimination protections in housing, public accommodations, and employment because they genuinely keep us safe. Everyone should have the chance to be themselves.