June 2, 2005
American Civil Liberties Union:
The Right Person for the Job
Library of Congress Accused of Withdrawing Job Offer After Applicant
Reveals Gender Change
By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 2, 2005; B09
David Schroer's job offer was withdrawn after he revealed that
once he started work, he would become Diane Schroer.
"I felt cheated and kind of hurt, honestly," Schroer says.
(By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
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
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The job offer, Schroer said, was rescinded the next day.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
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
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."
After months of psychotherapy, Schroer decided to proceed with the
full course of medical treatment for people with gender identity
disorder, a medical condition in which a person's gender identity
conflicts with anatomical sex at birth.
Schroer began a job search that led last fall to the Library of
Congress, which had an opening for a terrorism research analyst.
Schroer said officials were thrilled when an applicant offered an
operational background, rather than merely an academic one.
Interviewing as David, Schroer beat out 18 contenders and got all the
way to discussions of salary and start date. Then Schroer asked the
future supervisor out for lunch.
The supervisor, Schroer said, talked about the office and introduced
David Schroer as the new researcher. At lunch, Schroer told her that
the person coming to work would be Diane.
Schroer tried to make the supervisor more comfortable, explaining the
surgeries and showing her pictures of Diane in a dress. "No one wants
to go through life being the punch line of a joke. I'm not going to do
this if I'm going to look like a truck driver in a dress. I wanted her
to see I looked good, professional," Schroer said.
But the next day, Schroer said, the supervisor called and withdrew the offer.
"I felt cheated and kind of hurt, honestly," said Schroer, who called
the ACLU the next day.
The supervisor did not return a message left on her home phone, asking
for her side of the story.
"When you get called into Panama on the 19th of December, a week
before Christmas, after a midnight phone call, and you do this kind of
stuff as part of your job for years and years, and suddenlyyou're told
that now you're not good enough to work for the government, that's not
right," Schroer said.
Schroer's résumé describes David's role in creating and commanding a
classified, 120-person organization that tracked terrorist groups
around the world, often reporting directly to Vice President Cheney.
Even so, Schroer as Diane is struggling to find a full-time job.
Given the chance to file the suit as an anonymous "Jane Doe," Schroer
chose to file it as Diane Schroer, "to avoid hiding."
(c) 2005 The Washington Post Company
Should gender matter when you want to serve?
June 2, 2005
BY MARK BROWN SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
Diane Schroer grew up in Oak Lawn, graduated from Northern Illinois
University, made a career in the U.S. Army as an officer in Special
Forces and now is suing the federal government for sex discrimination.
Diane was my college roommate.
Back then, we knew her as Dave.
Sorry if that brings you up short to read it that way, but that was
intentional, because that's a taste of how it felt on this end when
Dave let me know six weeks ago that he had become Diane.
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.
Diane tells me she is a transsexual, currently in the process of
"transitioning" from male to female. This is mostly new stuff to me,
but as I understand it, transsexuals are individuals who feel strongly
that they are, or ought to be, the opposite sex.
It is a feeling Diane kept well hidden during a lifetime as a guy's
guy -- from high school gearhead to Airborne Ranger by the time he
left college to nail-spitting military commander with a key post in
the war on terror.
"Hey, if I'm stuck with this boy thing, I ought to do it right," Diane
told me Wednesday about the philosophy that guided her through those
many years when every day was confused with thoughts about being a
Diane was still going by Dave when she applied for a job last August
with the Congressional Research Service in Washington, D.C., as an
analyst for terrorism and international crime. The research service,
an agency within the Library of Congress, is the public policy
research arm of Congress and well-respected for its nonpartisan
Dave was highly qualified for the position, having served in a variety
of command and staff posts during his military career before retiring
effective Jan. 1, 2004, with the rank of colonel.
In his last assignment after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks,
Dave was assigned to create and direct a 120-person classified
organization within the Special Operations Command. His unit had what
his lawyers describe as "responsibility for tracking and targeting of
several high threat international terrorist organizations."
When I asked Diane to explain more precisely what that means, she told
me: "I'd like to, but then we'd have to cut off your head and put it
in a safe."
That's what I would have expected Dave to say, too.
Dave's combat experience included the U.S. invasion of Panama in 1989
to extract Gen. Manuel Noriega and the 1994 occupation of Haiti that
restored Jean-Bertrand Aristide to that nation's presidency after he
had been ousted in a coup. Dave speaks only obliquely about other
unspecified operational missions over the years in Africa, the Middle
East and Central America.
"I always say I did the desert before the desert was cool," Diane
says, the words again sounding a lot like Dave, although voice
training has helped her develop a passable woman's voice.
Offered a job
Supervisors at the Congressional Research Service must have recognized
Dave's qualifications because they offered him the job, which he
The problem came when Dave went back for one more meeting with the
woman who was hiring him to work out final details including a start
date. It was then that Dave told her about his gender change and that
when he reported for work on his first day he would be coming as
Diane says the woman called the next day to say that after a "long,
restless night" she had decided "for the good of the service" that
Diane would not be a "good fit" for the job after all.
Diane told me her first instinct was to just let it go. But the more
she thought about it, she felt the sting of injustice, the violation
The ACLU will file suit on her behalf today.
450 jumps out of planes
That's the Dave I knew in 1976 when we decided to abandon the NIU dorm
floor where I'd lived three years -- and him going on two -- so we
could rent an apartment off-campus.
I was a long-haired editor of the college paper, where I spent every
waking hour when I wasn't in a bar. He was the oh-so-serious ROTC guy
with a passion for constitutional law, trying to finish college in
I can't pinpoint why we got along, but I think it was mutual respect
because we were both from middle class backgrounds and maybe more
driven than others. But Dave could be fun, too.
He had a Jeep. This was maybe 20 years before anybody talked about
SUVs. His was no SUV. It was a real military-issue Jeep, and Dave
would take us off-roading through a creek bed near campus. It's
amazing we never rolled it and broke our necks.
Dave was exceptionally self-disciplined, but he had a weakness for bad
television. His compromise was to watch his shows, but do situps and
pushups during commercial breaks. He did his jogging in Army boots,
often carrying a rucksack. He wasn't a natural athlete and needed the
The summer after I graduated he went to Army Ranger school, training
in swamps. The next summer they had him jumping out of airplanes. He'd
made 450 jumps before he retired.
A good future general
Honestly, I always expected him to become a general, and that made me
feel good to think a person as ethical as him would be calling the
shots in some future war. This, after all, was right after Vietnam,
and young people viewed the military with great suspicion.
We drifted apart after college, catching up with each other every
decade or so. I never had a clue about his inner conflict, and looking
back, still can't find any.
As part of her transition, Diane has been receiving hormonal therapy
for 17 months and underwent facial feminization surgery. Under
accepted medical guidelines, it will be the end of the year at the
earliest before she is allowed to undergo sex reassignment surgery,
better known to most of us as a sex change operation.
By then, she'll have been "presenting" herself in public as a woman
for a year. I have no doubt she will go through with it.
If there was one thing I would have told you about Dave Schroer in the
days I knew him it's that he knew his own mind, and that's why I've
got to believe he knows what he's doing now when he says he's really
Dave Schroer served our country well. Diane is prepared to do the same.
ACLU Files Lawsuit on Behalf of Army
Veteran Against Library of Congress for Transgender Discrimination
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2005
Paul Cates, (212) 549-2568
Cell, (917) 566-1294
Art Spitzer, (202) 457-0804
WASHINGTON, DC -- The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal
court here today against the Library of Congress on behalf of a 25-year veteran
of the U.S. Army whose job offer was rescinded after she informed the
organization that she was in the process of transitioning from male to female.
"After risking my life for more than 25 years for my country, I've been told I'm
not worthy of the freedoms I worked so hard to protect," said Diane Schroer.
"All I'm asking is to be judged by my abilities rather than my gender."
Schroer, 49, retired from the Army as a Colonel in 2004 after 25 years of
distinguished service. As an Airborne Ranger qualified Special Forces officer,
Schroer completed over 450 parachute jumps, received numerous decorations
including the Defense Superior Service Medal, and was hand-picked to head up a
classified national security operation.
After leaving the military, Schroer confronted feelings she had been dealing
with her entire life, and after careful deliberation under the care of a doctor,
decided to transition from a man to a woman. While still presenting as a man,
Schroer applied for a position with the Library of Congress as the senior
terrorism research analyst. Soon thereafter she was offered the job, which she
accepted immediately. Prior to starting work, Schroer took her future boss to
lunch to explain that she was in the process of transitioning and thought it
would be easier for everyone if she simply started work presenting as
The future boss said nothing at the lunch to suggest that this would be a
problem. But the following day, Schroer received a call from the future boss
rescinding the offer, telling her that she wasn't a "good fit" for the Library
"The Library of Congress clearly thought Schroer was the most qualified person
for the job," said Sharon McGowan, a staff attorney with the ACLU's Lesbian and
Gay Rights Project. "The notion that our government would reject the best
candidate for a job simply because of her gender is not only patently unfair,
but also blatantly illegal."
In legal papers filed today in the Federal District Court for the District of
Columbia, the ACLU charges that the Library of Congress unlawfully refused to
hire Schroer in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which protects
against sex discrimination in the workplace. The lawsuit also claims that the
Library's action violated Schroer's constitutional right to be free from
discrimination, and violates the Library's own legal mandate to hire based only
"The government was perfectly happy to let Schroer risk life and limb to fight
terrorism. Yet now that she's female, Schroer has been told that she's unfit
even to research terrorism," said Art Spitzer, Legal Director of the ACLU of the
National Capital Area. "No one should have to fear being passed over for a job
simply because of his or her gender identity, but this case is especially
A copy of the complaint, a bio and photographs of Diane Schroer are
available at www.aclu.org/caseprofiles