A memo from the Department of Defense obtained by reporters on Tuesday March 12th outlines how the ban on transgender servicemembers will be put into effect. Under its terms, the military will discharge or deny enlistment to anyone who won’t serve in the gender to which they were assigned at birth, or who are undergoing hormone therapy or other gender-confirmation procedures.
“The order says the military services must implement the new policy in 30 days [by April 12], giving some individuals a short window of time to qualify for gender transition if needed,” according to the AP. “And it allows service secretaries to waive the policy on a case-by-case basis.”
The memo appears to be in keeping with the memo prepared by then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis last year and approved by the White House. It says service members can be discharged due to a diagnosis of gender dysphoria if they are “unable or unwilling to adhere to all applicable standards, including the standards associated with his or her biological sex, or seeks transition to another gender.”
Some may believe this ban will bring America’s military forces back in line with norms that the U.S. military has always adhered to. Accepted ideas of the “ideal” soldier and of women’s roles in wartime have been limited to nurses, spies or caring for the home in the absence of their fighting men. But we have historical records of transgender soldiers and of women who disguised themselves as men going back to the Revolutionary War.
It is estimated that nearly 400 women joined regiments and fought in the American Civil War.
It is estimated that nearly 400 women joined regiments and fought in the American Civil War. Disguised as men, they fought, bled and died for both the Union and the Confederacy. Those who were exposed were immediately discharged with no pay and no pension, since women were not allowed to serve in the military. Unless and until we unearth further evidence, there is no way to ascertain which of these women were transgender.
Albert D. J. Cashier, born Jennie Hodgers, is perhaps the only transgender man to complete a tour of duty in the Civil War, to be mustered out of service with his regiment, and to receive a Civil War pension. He explained after the war that the country needed men, and as he was already living as a man, he thought he would try his luck in the army. That he lived as a man before and after the Civil War seems to set him apart from other soldiers born female who chose to fight.
Cashier was born Jennie Hodgers, in Clogher Head, Ireland in 1843. It is not known how he came to America; one account says he stowed away on a ship, another that he immigrated with his family to upstate New York. According to a later investigation by the administrator of his estate, he was the daughter of Patrick and Sallie Hodgers. His later accounts of how he moved to America and why he enlisted were contradictory, possibly because he was quite old at the time of the retelling.
AGO (Adjutant General’s Office) records reveal that on August 3, 1862, a nineteen-year-old Irish immigrant named Albert D. J. Cashier, described as having a light complexion, blue eyes, and auburn hair, enlisted in the 95th Illinois Infantry where he served an entire three-year enlistment. All recruits were to be subjected to a physical examination prior to being mustered into service. But because of pressure to quickly fill regimental ranks, the surgeon’s exam was often circumvented. Recruits were to be stripped and thoroughly checked for signs of illness and disability but on the day of Pvt. Cashier’s exam, one soldier testified, “All that we showed was our hands and feet.” And another claimed that “a woman would not have had any trouble in passing the examination.”
By all accounts, Cashier was a good soldier although small at 5’2”…the smallest soldier in his company. He always kept his shirt buttoned to the collar regardless of the weather to hide that he had no Adam’s apple. He had a badly pock marked face which also made him appear less soft and feminine. Most soldiers slept in their uniforms and sometimes went months without bathing so it would not have been hard for Cashier to hide his sex as there was little opportunity to see him naked.
He participated in long marches and the hardships of camp life. He was equal of any in the company with a musket in battle. In fact, a fellow soldier in the 95th remarked that Albert Cashier could “do as much work as anyone in the Company.” When a comrade assisted him in handling a heavy assignment such as lifting or pushing equipment, Cashier would reciprocate by helping with his chores of washing clothes or replacing buttons.
The 95th Illinois Infantry fought in 40 battles. His fellow veterans remembered Cashier as a good and brave soldier. They marveled at his willingness to take on dangerous assignments. One veteran remembered Cashier exposing himself to sniper fire by climbing a tall tree to attach the Union flag after it was shot down by the enemy. At the battle of Vicksburg, comrades remember Private Cashier climbing to the top of their fieldworks to taunt the enemy into showing themselves. Also at Vicksburg, he was captured at a Confederate outpost during a reconnaissance mission but managed to escape by seizing a gun from one of his guards, knocking him down and fleeing back to Union camp.
During the three years Cashier was with the 95th it moved, much of the time on foot, over some 9,960 miles; with each man in the 983-man regiment carrying equipment and provisions on his back and waist. They took part in the bloody siege at Vicksburg, the Red River Campaign, and the fierce combat at Guntown, Mississippi, among many others. Albert D. J. Cashier was in all of these fights, wielding a rifle with bayonet.
Cashier mustered out with the rest of the 95th on August 27, 1865, returned to Illinois and lived in four towns before settling in Saunemin, Illinois in 1869. He worked as a farmhand, handyman, day laborer, child sitter, janitor and property caretaker for more than forty years. He voted in every Illinois election and lived life in every aspect as a man.
In 1890 Cashier applied for and received a veteran’s pension. In 1899, he requested an increased allotment because he was aging, becoming disabled and finding it harder to get work. On July 17, 1899, fifteen acquaintances and former employers signed a statement for the Pension Bureau declaring Cashier was enfeebled, destitute, and dependent on charity for “aid and support.” This statement is evidence that Cashier had many friends who supported him, all without knowing of his biological sex. The next year, Cashier’s doctor informed the Pension Bureau that his patient was completely disabled and could perform only the lightest of manual labor. It is amazing that in all these years and the many physical examinations that he must have been subjected to, Cashier was never discovered to be biologically female. Or if discovered, never publicly exposed.
That is, until 1911 while working as a handyman for Illinois state senator Ira Lish when Cashier’s leg was broken when hit by a car. While setting the broken thigh, the doctor discovered that he was biologically female. The senator and doctor agreed to keep Cashier’s secret. This is again testament to the friendships Cashier made in his lifetime. It also illustrates, in contrast to what many believe about early America, the open-mindedness about gender identity that some had in the early 20th Century. The broken leg never properly healed and it affected his ability to support himself, so the senator and physician arranged for Cashier’s entrance into the Illinois Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home in Quincy.
Cashier’s application for admission to the home dated April 11, 1911 showed no indication that he was biologically female. The senator’s influence with the home’s superintendent helped to keep Cashier’s secret. He stayed at the home for nearly three years until his physical and mental health deteriorated. It was decided that the facility could no longer properly care for him so the superintendent began proceedings to have Cashier declared insane by the State of Illinois and to send him to a mental institution.
At about this time, the news that Cashier was biologically female reached the public. It is not known who leaked the story but by early 1914, the community and the nation were reading about Cashier in newspapers. The Pension Bureau appointed a special examiner to investigate the case as they were convinced that Cashier had defrauded the government for the past twenty-four years.
He was housed in the women’s ward and required to wear dresses for the first time in more than fifty years.
On March 27, 1914 Cashier was committed to the Watertown State Hospital for the Insane. He was housed in the women’s ward and required to wear dresses for the first time in more than fifty years. Mrs. Martha Anderson, supervising nurse at the time, says Cashier would pull his skirt between his legs and pin it together to make pants. This angered Cashier’s former comrades who could hardly witness the humiliation of one who had once been so fearless. His fellow veterans were less concerned about his gender than by what was being done to him.
Cashier’s former friends of the 95th Illinois Infantry rallied around him during his confinement. His most frequent visitor was his former commanding officer, Charles W. Ives. Another veteran, Robert Horan, was vocal in his criticism of Cashier’s treatment, believing the state committed him merely to save money.
During its investigation, the Pension Bureau deposed former employers, residents of Saunemin and many veterans of Cashier’s regiment. Everyone positively identified him as being the same young person who enlisted in 1862. On February 10, 1915, the board of review ruled that Cashier had not defrauded the government and that his pension checks would continue, making Albert Cashier the only known biological female to be allowed payment for serving the Union in the Civil War.
Cashier lived eighteen months at the state hospital and died on Oct. 10, 1915. After his funeral with full military honors, he was buried in his uniform beneath a marker that read, “Albert D.J. Cashier, Co. G, 95th Ill. Inf.” In 1977, the townspeople of Saunemin replaced it with a larger stone which told his extraordinary story:
Albert D. J. Cashier
Co. G, 95th Inf.
Born: Jennie Hodgers
in Clogher Head, Ireland
Albert D. J. Cashier fought as well as any man in the Union Army, well enough to evade detection for three years of hard fighting and to earn praise from fellow soldier’s decades later. If a transgender man could serve his country heroically at a time when hand-to-hand combat was the norm, today’s transgender men and women can certainly serve given today’s vastly superior technological advances.
This transgender ban is simply a ruse to falsely alienate a group of citizens, as the DOD did to women for decades. It wasn’t until January 1, 2016 that the Department of Defense opened approximately 220,000 combat positions to women. Direct ground combat units had excluded women because they “would not contribute to the readiness and effectiveness of those units” because of their inferior physical strength and stamina, and because of privacy issues. The other 400 biological females who bravely fought in the Civil War are proof that those were never real reasons for female exclusion. And the support that Albert Cashier received from his comrades illustrates that early 20th Century Americans were more open-minded than today’s citizens.
Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War
Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero
The Woman in Battle: The Civil War Narrative of Loreta Janeta Velazques, Cuban Woman and Confederate Soldier
She Went to the Field: Women Soldiers of the Civil War
Women of the Blue and Gray: True Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies of the Civil War
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World
Held in Highest Esteem by All: the Civil War Letters of William B. Chilvers, 95th Illinois Infantry
A Velvet Fist in an Iron Glove: The Curious Case of Albert Cashier
They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War
DeAnne Blanton, Women Soldiers of the Civil War
Gender Issues: Information on DOD’s Assignment Policy and Direct Ground Combat Definition, United States General Accounting Office, October 1998