PRIDE: The Struggle of a Transgender Black Male MST Survivor

Royal Parker served in the U.S. Army before his transition. Royal faced a series of hardships based on race, gender identity, and as a survivor or Military Sexual Trauma (MST). Royal's preferred pronouns are he, him, his. Royal details his story of adversity and struggle while serving our nation. Today, Royal is an activist in the Hudson Valley Region of New York helping other transgender veterans.


I am an American soldier. My experience in the military was heartbreaking. I experienced sexual assault, rape, gender inequality, racism, and countless other trials and tribulations that were continuously swept under the rug. I experienced gender inequality throughout my entire career. Having been born biologically female, we were looked at as less than. Even when we aced PT scores and were leading the class in testing scores; the idea of a woman being a leader was downplayed. I experienced trans-phobia first hand, as I was denied medical assistance on two occasions before the transgender ban was implemented. I was told that it wasn’t the time to pursue my transition for military readiness before deploying and that upon my return I would be given that.

During this time I was not on any hormones. I had not begun my transition, but I was not silent about who I was. Once the leadership started to receive memos about people being transgender and what regulations would change for transgender individuals within the military, I began to receive backlash and harassment. I was not late to formation, I was always on time; I was always ready and willing to do whatever duties were assigned to me. Yet, I was still put on the radar as a malingering soldier.

I experienced a sexual assault during my deployment when a male off duty NCO entered my room. I was on the floor with all men at the time. I was the only female on that floor, so he figured he wouldn’t need to knock after obtaining the master key from the patrol desk on the first floor. I told my NCOS, my First Sgt and he got written up and nothing more. I never received an apology and I certainly didn't receive justice. So once I got back to the states from my deployment in South Korea, I sought out to begin my transition. After countless attempts, appointments, blood work, and after I was classified with a mental disorder; all of my paperwork was fulfilled: only to be denied by my officers. Who told me they didn’t want this to be brought up on the red carpet and that this was an elective procedure that they wouldn’t approve.

Listen to Royal's story on our Perspective's Podcast!