Friday, 3 July 2015

Caroline Paige Did It First

Caroline Paige
Last week, Caroline Paige didn’t get a Pride Power award.  Someone who did get an award, also got credit for Caroline’s achievement. 

Who is Caroline Paige?  The first RAF air crew and UK officer to transition while serving in the military.  How bad-ass is that?  A fast jet aviator coming out as trans in 1998 – before the military LGBT ban was removed.  After transition, she did eight helicopter deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Pride Power indeed!

The Bit-ler asked around the military LGBT community for their reaction to Pride Power’s mistake.  People didn’t want to make a fuss.  The woman getting the award had done things.  Someone from the military would correct the mistake on the night.

No.  Feckin not good enough. 

So I contacted both Pride Power and the Guardian journalist who wrote First Trans RAF Pilot, The Remake.  Pride Power didn’t respond.  It was the day before the awards ceremony, so a bit late to change their minds.  The journalist, however, did tweet back to say that although she knew the woman getting the award wasn’t the first, she thought she was the first openly trans pilot.

Caroline Paige - look at them medals!
Okay.  Before Caroline, no one in the RAF had transitioned.  Caroline put 18 years of service at risk by telling her chain of command.  Once they agreed to let her transition on the job, there were people involved issuing her with female uniforms, changing her name and gender in their records, jerking her out of a cockpit and shoving her behind a desk because a girly couldn’t be flying to the front line.  Enough people involved that she got outed to the press.

How was her transition not open?  Because she didn’t self-promote?

Ten years ago when my son, El Punko transitioned, he said that the effort it took every day to be trans, left him with no energy to be an activist.  I told him that living his life was activism – the number of lives he touched, the trans and LGB, the SOFFA and totally unconnected. 

Obviously the LGBT community needs public activists – and yes, people who self-promote – in order to give the community visibility.  But any successful movement has to have a grassroots element.  One person meeting another person and changing an opinion, making a difference a thousand times over so the high profile, professional LGBT folk can have a splash-out with the media and give each other awards. 

I have no objection to that LGBT club of self-promotion, but don’t steal what’s due to someone like Caroline Paige.  The Bit-ler and all transfolk serving in the RAF now, have the option to accept awards or keep a low profile or walk somewhere in between because of Caroline.  Regardless of their own achievements, she was the first.    

Caroline Paige, first RAF pilot to openly transition
Edging Caroline Paige out of RAF history belittles her sacrifice and achievement, not to mention commits a despicable theft of her personal story and her public contribution.  Give that back to her.  Not as a mumbled aside in front of a room of people popping wine corks and taking selfies with celebrities.  Do it as publicly as you took it away from her.

Hey, and while you’re at it, give Caroline Paige an award.  She actually earned it.

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