The Right Person for the Job
Thursday, June 2, 2005
The job candidate interviewing to be a terrorism research analyst at the Library of Congress seemed to have exceptional qualifications: a 25-year Army veteran and former Special Forces commander who spent a career hunting terrorists and often personally briefed the vice president, defense secretary or Joint Chiefs of Staff on sensitive operations.
The interviews and salary talks went well for David Schroer. A job offer followed, and he accepted. Then the new employee brought up one last item: Once work began, the name would be Diane, not David.
The job offer, Schroer said, was rescinded the next day.
Schroer, 48, recently began the medical transition to become a woman. The former Army Ranger believed that the library would be a welcoming place to make a gender transition: "It's the United States government. It's the Congress. It's an eclectic, academic environment with a group of diverse people that all work together to get the job done."
Schroer is to file a lawsuit today accusing the Library of Congress of sex discrimination and asking that the job offer be reinstated, said Arthur B. Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area.
"This is an important case, factually, because here's a person who spent her entire career defending freedom for the entire country and is now being told she is unfit for a job with the government," said Spitzer, who represents Schroer.
Spitzer said the case could face some obstacles. "Legal protection for transgender people is not at all clear. . . . Courts have not been as receptive as they need to be for providing discrimination protection for these people," he said.
A spokeswoman for the library, Helen Dalrymple, declined to comment on any details of Schroer's complaint because the case is a personnel matter.
David Schroer began the transition to Diane about 18 months ago, after knowing for years that as a man, he was uncomfortable in his own skin. "I always wondered why I couldn't play with the girls, why I couldn't dress like a girl. I always felt I was in the wrong queue," Schroer said.
After a 16-year marriage and high-octane career that included 450 parachute jumps, midnight special operations missions abroad, a number of medals for distinguished service and two master's degrees, Schroer began some quiet research into the gender identity issues that have been present for years.
"It was an epiphany for me," the retired colonel said.
Leaving the Army last year was the beginning of that transformation, and Schroer began working for a small consulting firm run by former "special ops folks."