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Allyson Robinson, OutServe-SLDN state their cases after weekend scandal

WASHINGTON – Allyson Robinson says rumors of her demise as executive director of OutServe-SLDN are premature, but the nation’s most visible transgender leader says she will be leaving “own my own accord” and “at a date to be determined.”

Robinson is caught in the middle of a nasty bloodbath and power play involving the organization's board of directors that threatens the very existence of OutServe-SLDN. The board of directors, pushed by co-chairman Josh Seefried, apparently voted to fire Robinson during a meeting Saturday. The controversial vote promoted several of the 15 board members to resign as well as many of the senior staff.

But more than two days later, OutServe-SLDN is singing a different tune, and Robinson says she is still in charge.

Here is a statement by Robinson to OutServe-SLDN members, families and supporters issued Monday afternoon via outservemag.com:

This weekend’s events were most unfortunate and deeply troubling for many of us, but for my part, as from the beginning of my tenure with this organization, I am fully and firmly committed to our LGBT service members, veterans, and their families and to their fight for equality. For that reason, and to honor those who’ve shared those values with me, it is my intent to continue to lead OutServe-SLDN in the near term as we approach an historic moment for our community and our country. After that, at a date to be determined, I have decided of my own accord to step down, and will work with our members to ensure an orderly transition to the next phase of this organization’s life.

Very few people ever get the opportunity in this life to hear from those whose lives they’ve touched just how much they are loved and respected. I have no words to express my gratitude for the hundreds who have reached out to me privately or stood up for me publicly over these last 24 hours to show their support: from the military community, the LGBT community, and most especially, most dear to me, the troops of OutServe-SLDN and their families. For that, I am blessed beyond measure.

In light of the momentous events the coming days hold for us all, I intend to put this matter behind us and look forward to shifting the focus back to where it belongs: our LGBT service members, veterans, and families, who sacrifice so much every day, and their ongoing fight for full equality.
— Allyson Robinson, Executive Director, OutServe-SLDN

Also today, the board of directors issued this statement to the same group of people, also via outservemag.com:

Washington, DC – The OS-SLDN Board and staff are in the process of transforming the organization from primarily a legal services organization into a membership services and advocacy organization. This not only includes revising our business model to operate effectively under new political and financial realities, but is also part of a larger effort to increase the role of the organization’s 6,500 members in the leadership and direction of the organization.

This past Saturday an email containing the contents of confidential internal discussions of the OS-SLDN Board of Directors was erroneously distributed to an email list containing recipients outside of the Board of Directors. The board would like to clarify that the drafted item was only part of a series of discussions aimed at transitioning the organization in what has been a rapidly changing financial and political landscape facing the LGBT movement, which will soon include a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act. As is the case with many of our partners at this critical time, OS-SLDN is facing real and significant financial obstacles, forcing the Board to look critically at all aspects of its operations and to consider difficult decisions, including cutting costs and staffing reductions.

Board Co-Chair, Josh Seefried, stated, “There is no excuse for the series of events that transpired this past weekend. On behalf of the Board of Directors, I sincerely apologize for this as well as the impact it’s had on our staff’s and members’ trust and confidence in the organization. Allyson Robinson has led OutServe-SLDN as one of the most transformational leaders of this movement, and there is not a member serving on this board who does not respect and admire her work for this organization and the LGBT movement.”

“Allyson has continually put our LGBT service members, veterans, and their families first in the changes the organization has faced since the repeal of DADT,” stated co-chair April Heinze. “As many in our community know, the LGBT movement is evolving quickly, and so will its institutions. Many people thought that after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ all the military LGBT organizations would or should disappear. As Allyson Robinson and her staff have so powerfully and effectively reminded the nation, the mission for full equality in our Armed Forces is incomplete.”

Robinson, a 1994 graduate of West Point, has led OutServe-SLDN through some of the movement’s most significant victories since the repeal of DADT, including the public vetting of Chuck Hagel for the office of Secretary of Defense, the highlighting of ongoing discrimination against gay and lesbian military families at Ft. Bragg and elsewhere, and the extension of non-DOMA restricted benefits to same-sex military partners. She has worked tirelessly to put military families at the center of the discussion of the Defense of Marriage Act and has become the nation’s leading advocate for transgender inclusion in the military.

In light of these events, the board and Allyson will be working together toward a successful transition of the organization. Allyson will continue to serve as Executive Director throughout this period.

OS-SLDN operations and planned events, unless explicitly noted, will continue as planned to include the 2013 OutServe-SLDN Leadership Conference which will be held in San Antonio, Texas in October.

— The OS-SLDN Board of Directors

Meanwhile, the Association of Transgender Professionals on Monday afternoon issued a statement about the OutServe-SLDN scandal.

“Allyson’s role at OutServe-SLDN was a beacon to all by demonstrating that transgender was finally an equal partner in the struggle for LGBT equality,” said Denise Norris, ATP executive director.

Autumn Sandeen of San Diego, an ATP member and well-known transgender military and veterans activist, hailed Robinson’s leadership qualities.

"Allyson Robinson is a strong leader that many prominent trans* veterans trust and deeply respect. I'm sure I'm not the only trans* veteran who is saddened that she'll no longer be leading OutServe-SLDN,” said Sandeen, Petty Officer First Class (retired), who served 20 years in the Navy.

Norris said that many ATP members are veterans of military service and have expressed great concern at the loss of the strong positive role model which Robinson represents.

“Once cannot serve with Pride if one is commanded to do so in the closet,” Norris said.

A quick opinion

One thing is sure in this scandal: OutServe-SLDN has a huge PR mess on its hands, and its viability in the future is at question.