Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) hosted its annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month event featuring keynote speaker Capt. Donna Price, United States Navy, (retired), on June 4.
NSWCPD’s Commanding Officer, Capt. Dana F. Simon, opened the event by highlighting the importance of celebrating LGBT Pride Month, as well as the value of a diverse workforce.
“This month is about celebrating our diversity and recognizing the differences that make our nation great,” Simon said.
Price shared with the NSWCPD workforce her story from her 25-year active duty career to her journey of transitioning to female in 2014 and her daily life as a transgender woman.
Price explained that she experienced Gender Dysphoria all her life; she had always known that she was in the wrong body and spent over 50 years being uncomfortable. She lived as a man to keep her job in the Navy and waited until all of her children had graduated from college before taking the steps to live freely as a trans woman.
“I couldn’t change my gender any more than I could change my handedness,” Price said.
From an early age Price felt different, but did not have the words to express it. She was unaware that anyone else felt the way she did. She explained that she read about Christine Jorgensen, an American GI who served in World War II as a man, received sex reassignment after the war, and returned to America as a woman.
“I thought ‘oh my gosh’, there’s one other person in the world like me,” Price said.
Afraid of being discharged, Price was unable to live as a woman during her time as an officer in the Navy. She served in several roles in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, from military judge to commanding officer of the largest legal office in the Department of the Navy. Price retired from the Navy in 2003, several years before that service began celebrating LGBT pride and before the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
She highlighted the fact that trans women only make an average of $10,500, which isn’t enough to raise a family. She waited to begin her transition until she got out of the Navy and until her youngest child finished college.
“People always asked me [about my decision to begin my transition at age 60] ‘why now?’” Price said. “This didn’t just happen; I’ve been feeling this way for 54 years.”
Today, Price is an attorney who specializes in security clearances representations, an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond Law School, and an advocate for the LGBT community.
“We have the obligation to stand up and make sure that every person in America can achieve the dreams of Ben Franklin and live up to the preamble to the Constitution,” Price said.
Following her remarks, she took questions from the audience. Price, asked how to create a more welcoming environment for LGBT employees, advised the workforce to not make jokes at someone else’s expense, as well as focus on ensuring the organization is welcoming to everyone.
“I have only had a short amount of time with [NSWCPD’s Commanding Officer] Captain Simon and [NSWCPD’s Technical Director] Mr. [Tom] Perotti, but I am incredibly impressed,” Price said. “The fact that the [Technical] Director is the Champion of the LGBT group speaks immeasurably about your workplace.”
NSWCPD employs approximately 2,600 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service and logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.