Fear. It’s the small feeling in the back of everyone’s mind that tells them they aren’t good enough, that they won’t be accepted if they are themselves, that something is too hard so they shouldn’t or simply can’t do it.
On Wednesday evening, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, Women’s Resource Center and the Center for Veterans teamed up to bring in keynote speaker Emma Shinn, a retired Marine Judge Advocate, in celebration of National Coming Out Day.
National Coming Out Day has been celebrated since 1988, and UNC has been participating in that celebration for over 10 years. The GSRC stretch out the holiday into a week of fun and inspirational events or presentations. It is a time for everyone to feel accepted and celebrate who they are.
Shinn’s inspirational story of being in the Marine Corps living a lie under the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy spoke to many, even bringing some to tears. The “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy forced many in the military whom identified with the LGBT community to either be discharged or live a lie, and Shinn had to lie about her identity so she could continue serving in the military.
Shinn started off her military career a lie. Though she said her career brought her so much that she doesn’t regret, it also took so much away from her.
“My name is Emma Shinn and I am a transgender,” Shinn said.
The term ‘transgender’ is used to describe a person that does not identify, express, behave or conform to the sex that he or she was assigned to at birth.
At 19-years-old, Shinn joined the Marine Corps. She served her country from 1994 to 2014, when she retired from active duty. Throughout her military career, Shinn had many different titles, including Active Duty Judge Advocate, Infantry and Logistics Officer and Second Lieutenant.
One of the first stories Shinn shared with UNC students was about a soldier she met while serving. She discussed how she was not only afraid of being discharged because of her bisexuality, but also of certain responses from the people she cared about.
Though the path Shinn chose was not easy by any means, she said it was one that made her who she is today. Throughout the presentation, students, staff and other members of the community raised their voices to show their pride, particularly when she talked about overcoming fear. Some even chose to share their own experiences.
Shinn is also the founder of the Colorado Name Change Project and has helped over 1,700 Colorado residents begin the process of changing their name. The project allows residents to access almost all the paperwork they need to legally change their name, as well as provides free information on how to go about the process.
Colorado Name Change Project