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Australian Defence Force Academy moves to make extraordinary just ordinary

2015 05 28 GPCAPT Cate McGregor 3

Group Captain Cate McGregor called for the respect and courtesy that she has received to be extended to other transgender members at a recent dinner hosted by the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).

The evening brought together prominent members of the Canberra LGBTI community, DEFGLIS, Australian Federal Police, University of New South Wales Canberra lecturers, senior Defence personnel and undergraduates to explore how to turn LGBTI inclusion in Defence from being something that is extraordinary to simply ordinary.

The dinner was one of many events held across Defence to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-, Intersex and Trans-phobia and was organised by the ADFA LGBTI Network for undergraduates.

GPCAPT McGregor, the most senior and recognisable transgender person in Defence talked about her personal journey coming to terms with her gender identity, her transition and the significance of workplace support during that period.

"Nothing meant as much to me as the night that I sent out an email in August 2012, when I wrote to a very large number of colleagues and people that I had served with on operations and the [Regimental Sergeant Major] RSM of the Army," said McGregor.

Replying to all, RSM of the Army addressed McGregor as "Ma'am" for the very first time.

"In doing that, he extended military courtesy to me very visibly in front of the entire leadership group, and anyone who cared to see it, and I think that was one of the game changing moments and it touched me very, very deeply."

McGregor's paused to recognise the challenging transition journey of other members to address their dysphoria and maintain operational readiness status.

"Some people have been kind enough to say that I'm a role model and if that's true, then I'm very touched... [but] it is better to be, than to be seen" said McGregor.

“Not everyone has had the enormous amount of free kicks that I’ve had, I only ask that you extend the courtesy that has been given to me to them.”

Each table for the evening was carefully crafted to provide undergraduates with the greatest variety of views from across the community, normalising discussion about LGBTI inclusion amongst the general conversation.

Expanding the success of the last IDAHOT Dinner at ADFA, organisers increased outreach to Canberra's LGBTI community and its leaders.

Guests included the ACT LGBTIQ Ministerial Advisory Council Chair Heidi Yates and Deputy Chair Peter Hyndal, DEFGLIS members and senior Defence personnel including Vice Chief of Defence Force Vice Admiral Ray Griggs.

President of the ADFA LGBTI Network Midshipman Caitlin Fuller said that the evening was a fantastic success and ultimately achieved the intended outcomes of the Network.

"When we started planning for the event we wanted to ensure that it was a function that members from all parts of the community could enjoy and participate in," said Fuller. "Everyone needs to know that they are accepted and valued, and that is exactly what IDAHOBIT promotes, equality through education and action.

"As a network we are focused on providing support for LGBTI members at the Australian Defence Force Academy, and raising the bar for interesting and innovative events that promote diversity and inclusion."

President of DEFGLIS Vince Chong remarked that five years ago, the nature of the dinner would not have been possible because of a Defence policy that banned transgender personnel from serving.

"While we are still working a number of issues in this space, the step-change in support for gender transition over this relatively short timeframe is remarkable," said Chong.

This year Defence was jointly recognised with the Australian Federal Police as being the top public sector employer for LGBTI personnel.

For more information on IDAHOBIT visit the website.

Photos by James Smith

Above: 28 May 15 - Group Captain Cate McGregor addresses the International Day against Homophobia, Bi-, Intersex and Trans-Phobia Dinner audience held at the Australian Defence Force Academy Cadets Mess