Transgender Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor speaks out about abuse and support in the Australian Army. Original news report by Ian McPhedran seen on ABC and uploaded to youtube by Trans Health Australia.
THE person behind the stirring speech delivered by army chief Lieutenant General David Morrison in the wake of shocking revelations about an army email sex ring was his transgender speechwriter, Lieutenant Colonel Cate McGregor.
Formerly Malcolm McGregor, Lieutenant Colonel McGregor is the highest ranking of six transgender people serving in the Australian Defence Force, as well as being a globally renowned cricket writer.
One of her strongest supporters is Lt General Morrison, who refused to accept her resignation when she went public and told him that she was causing embarrassment to his office.
The support was in place early and as soon as McGregor confided in her boss and friend Morrison told her that “I want you to know that I’m privileged that you felt you could tell me about the crisis you’re facing and I will be with you every step of the way”.
“And I was very moved by that. I felt, up to that point, very isolated, I couldn’t see a future in the army with this condition and he said ‘let me know what you need to do, but you have my support.’
“More often than not I’ve quit and resigned and said ‘I’m causing embarrassment to your office’ and he has unfailingly supported me and insisted I continue to serve on,” she tells ABC TV’s “One Plus One” program today.
Expanding on the themes touched on in the now famous speech, Lt Colonel McGregor says that her boss took the view that the army simply could not survive if it became a demographic ghetto, a smokestack industry in a changing world.
“He knew that there needed to be more women in the army … that if you were physically and mentally good enough to be a soldier, then the army wanted you and he’s rigorously enforced that, whether on grounds of gender, race or sexuality.”
The email ring, known as the “Jedi council”, distributed degrading images and messages about women, both in and outside the services, who might be exploited for sex.
“Those who think it is OK to behave in a way that demeans or exploits their colleague have no place in this army,” Lt Gen Morrison told the troops by video.
“Show moral courage and take a stand against it.”
Lieutenant Colonel McGregor said the most difficult part of her transformation had been telling her then wife.
“It was very taxing for both of us. It was the hardest conversation I have ever had with another human being, telling her what was going on,” she says.
“She had watched with growing alarm and sadness as I struggled with something that I couldn’t put a name on and it was distressing in the extreme for her.
“She’s experienced terrible loss in this in that she’s seen a husband essentially die but not had the closure of a funeral. But we get on very well. We’re soulmates, we’re very, very close and she’s the most wonderful person I’ve ever met.”
* Lieutenant Colonel McGregor will today appear on One Plus One in her army uniform to tell Jane Hutcheon and the world about her struggles, including the “drumbeat of personal abuse” she has suffered and the incredible support she has received.
As McGregor told her good friend and news.com political editor Malcolm Farr last November: “Actually mate, in the best tradition of the Australian army I have become Cate – or mate which represents the amalgam of mate and Cate.”