Allyn Cropper has always done everything he could to be close to the fight, yet along the way found the time to find himself. At his first duty station he was immediately deployed to Kuwait where he found himself pondering who he really was. Luckily, he had access to some online resources and came across the term ‘transgender’. It was like a shock to the brain, he immediately identified with it as an answer to all the questions of “Why am I different?” His Army journey had just begun, but so had his journey of identity.
When Allyn returned from Kuwait the excitement was palpable and he decided that he was going to change his middle name. He called his mother to talk to her about what he was going through and to hopefully get her input. Unfortunately, the reaction was not what he expected or hoped for. She was not at all pleased and told him that if he changed his middle name he would need to change his last name as well. Allyn was badly stung, but he didn’t hold it against her or dissuade him from the path he knew to be right. He had reached a point where he could not live in the gender he was assigned at birth; the stakes of not transitioning were too high.
Mere months later, in the early stages of his transition, Allyn volunteered to go to South Korea because the mission mattered to him. It turned out to be a fantastic opportunity where he felt so free. His fellow soldiers were focused on his work ethic and his eagerness to learn, not how he presented himself. While there, Allyn also focused on his relationship with his mother and it paid off. She realized that he was still the loving and caring child that she’s known all her life and is now his biggest supporter.
Allyn left Korea after two years and returned stateside to a base in Arizona where he experienced discrimination almost immediately. 2 years of struggle went by in a transphobic environment where it was the opposite of Korea: he was judged on who he was, not his performance. It was a constant struggle and he had to fight for every school and every career opportunity he needed. He started to hate the Army that he had so loved. Luckily, in his third year, new leadership arrived and changed everything. Through their guidance, Allyn did not give up on himself or the Army. They saw his potential and challenged him every day to work past the previous discrimination. Though the Army still recognized Allyn as a female at the time, they used proper pronouns and created a culture of dignity and respect while ensuring Allyn was able to attend the training he needed to be eligible for promotion to Sergeant.
While at training, Allyn took the opportunity to address misconceptions about trans soldiers and gave a speech to his class. His voice cracked and tears ran down his face as he told them that he was transgender and that he didn’t want any special treatment, he simply wanted to serve. The support and love he received that day fills his heart now and forever. To him, that day proved all the news stories about military members not accepting transgender Soldiers were lies. His peers had his back.
In the years since, Allyn reenlisted, was promoted to Staff Sergeant and moved to Fort Eustis, VA. Though the era of open service has come and gone, his command has done everything possible to ensure equitable treatment. From day one, he was able to communicate any issues directly to them. SSG Cropper is glad he didn’t give up on the Army and that the Army hasn’t given up on him. Though the ups and downs have been many, and he expects more, the military is his passion and he’s committed to seeing it through.
Along the way, SSG Cropper has earned 3 Army Commendation medals, 4 Army Achievement medals, 3 Army Good Conduct medals, 4 Certificates of Achievements, Commandants list, Solider of the Quarter, and more. Not a bad way to start a career.
Q & A with SSG Cropper
Q: Why did you join the military?
A: I joined the military in September of 2008. I wanted a foundation in my life and I was not ready to attend college. It was also a family tradition so I figured, “why not?”
Q: What are your career goals?
A: My career goal is to retire as a Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank.
Q: How do you stay resilient?
A: My mother plays a major role in my resilience. On days that I don’t think I can make it I think of her and her life journey. I also use my mater resiliency skills I learned as an Army resiliency trainer. When it’s all said and done we are all just humans experiencing life.
Q: What do you want people to know about transgender members of the military?
A: I think they would like to know that we don’t want any special treatment. We took an oath just like everyone else and are expected to abide by it just like anyone else. Being transgender is a small part of who we are it’s not who we are. We are so much more than our transitions.
Q: What can allies do to support the trans military community?
A: The best thing an ally can do is learn how to be an informed ally and speak up when a trans person isn’t around. To me what determines is you are a true ally is what is done and said when I’m not around.