Contact: Margie Cook, NIU LGBT Resource Center
November 4, 2009
DeKalb, Ill. — Diane Schroer graduated from NIU in 1977 – as David Schroer – and went on to a decorated career as an Airborne Ranger who was hand-picked to head up a classified national security operation.
But when David Schroer retired as a colonel after 25 years of distinguished service in the Army, he transitioned from male to female, and as Diane Schroer faced one of her biggest challenges yet: living her life as a woman and fighting discrimination from the country she had served.
Schroer will visit NIU at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16, to discuss her groundbreaking Title VII sex discrimination lawsuit against the Library of Congress, which established that discriminating against someone for changing genders is sex discrimination under federal law. The presentation will take place in the Francis X. Riley Courtroom, Swen Parson Hall, Room 170, with a reception following.
Schroer will be joined by her former NIU college roommate, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown, who wrote a series of columns about Schroer’s court fight; and the attorney who represented her, Sharon McGowan from the American Civil Liberties Union.
“I knew I was different before I was old enough to remember things,” Schroer said of her childhood in Chicago. “My earliest memories are of just feeling I should be a girl and wondering why I wasn't.”
Her ability to keep a secret served her well in her military career, but ultimately became something she wanted to stop doing in her personal life. After leaving the Army in 2004, she began researching gender issues online. “Things I’d not comprehended before started rapidly falling into place and making sense,” she said. “I realized I could finally fully become who I’ve always known I was inside.”
When she interviewed for a job as a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress, she thought she’d found the perfect fit, given her background and 16,000-volume home library collection on military history, the art of war, international relations and political philosophy. Schroer accepted the position, but when she told her future supervisor that she was in the process of gender transition, they rescinded the job offer, leading to the court challenge that Schroer ultimately won.
Brown wrote about Diane’s gender transition in a June 2005 Chicago Sun-Times column, describing his shock and confusion, but also his high regard for his college buddy: “As awkward as I feel, however, I try to keep in mind what it's like for Diane, emerging anew into the world at age 48 – and now having been put into the position where she must do so quite publicly in order to fight for what she thinks is right. I'm taking her side in that fight, not just because I know she’d do the same for me, but also because I'm sure we owe it to her after 25 years in the service of our country – during which she pulled duty in many of the world's hot spots.”
Brown went on to record the progress of his renewed relationship with his former roommate and her lawsuit through a series of newspaper columns.
Although transsexual identity was something new to him, Brown challenged his own and his readers’ discomfort: “The natural inclination might be to look away to avoid seeing something that we might prefer not to know. People in Diane’s situation could use a little more understanding from the rest of us. There are more of them out there than we realize, many suffering silently with their tortured thoughts. Since [my last column], I’ve heard from several other buddies of Dave’s going back to high school and college who expressed support because they knew him as a quality person, something that’s not dependent on any feature of his anatomy or how he dresses.”
The event is the second annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni presentation, and is cosponsored by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center, College of Law, Department of Communication, and NIU College of Law Gay-Straight Alliance.
For more information, contact the LGBT Resource Center at (815) 753-5428 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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