Metro Weekly

National Guard told lesbian to be ‘more feminine’ to progress, lawsuit claims

Kristin Kingrey accuses the West Virginia Air National Guard of blocking her from progressing after she was told to wear makeup

Kristin Kingrey, national guard, air force
Kristin Kingrey – Image via Fairness West Virginia

A lesbian woman is suing the U.S. Army and Air Force, alleging that she was told to look “more feminine” or her career would suffer.

Tech. Sgt. Kristin M. Kingrey, 37, of the West Virginia Air National Guard, claims that she was denied two potential jobs after a senior male leader told her to wear make-up, grow her hair, and “ultimately appear more feminine,” the Daily Beast reports.

Kingrey, a 14-year veteran, told the Daily Beast that the Guard withdrew a job offer that she had already applied for and rejected her for another role after the senior leader’s comments.

“From 2016 to 2018, I was constantly being pulled into my seniors’ offices being told my hair was out of regs [non-regulation],” Kingrey said.

“It crossed a line into harassment, and I carried on my person a copy of our regulations in regards to female hair length because I was not breaking any rules.”

Kingrey claims in her lawsuit that she was subjected to “continued harassment, discrimination, and retaliation based upon her sex, including her sexual orientation and perceived gender nonconformity.”

She alleges that vice wing commander colonel Michael Cadle told a female lieutenant colonel to suggest that Kingrey change her appearance to be more feminine.

It was suggested that she “grow my hair out and start wearing makeup because if I didn’t, it would be detrimental to my career in the West Virginia Air National Guard,” Kingrey claimed.

“I had heard of other females with short hair having issues with people saying things, but I don’t know that progressed to the extent mine did. My hair length has nothing do with my work ethic or job performance,” she added.

“Initially I was embarrassed. I could not believe that not fitting their mold of how I should look would truly impact my career. It was devastating.”

Kingrey said that colleagues and superiors enabled a rumor that she was transitioning to male, and she alleged that she was forced to try on a woman’s Honor Guard jacket to “confirm” that the women’s sizes wouldn’t fit.

“I am fighting this case not just because what happened to me was blatantly wrong, but, most importantly, I truly hope positive change comes from my case and it prevents another individual having to walk this path, because it is a very long and dark path to walk,” Kingrey told the Daily Beast.

She also said that she has been the victim of “retaliation” since filing her lawsuit in November last year, with female colleagues also being investigated for “fraternization.”

Also Read: Gay man ‘tortured’ for days by Air Force after sexuality uncovered

Kingrey’s attorney, Mike Hissam, said her lawsuit is seeking an apology from Cradle and to have her job offer reinstated with back pay.

“Kristin should get the position she applied for and would have gotten had it not been for the unlawful discrimination she suffered,” Hissam said. “That’s the outcome she wants.”

In a statement, the West Virginia National Guard said it is “fully committed to an inclusive and diverse workforce free from harassment.”

“As a matter of policy, the WVNG does not comment on matters that are currently pending in litigation,” the statement, issued in December, read. “But generally, the WVNG advised an outside agency who is charged with conducting investigations that are prompt, fair, and impartial in matters like this one. They produced a report with the factual record, and it was determined that no discrimination and/or harassment occurred. As such, we are continuing the process to present the facts to fully resolve this matter in the court system.”

Kingrey said that her experience has left her feeling that she doesn’t “belong” in the National Guard and that her “career will be hindered.”

“But I have not considered quitting. I will not be defeated,” she told the Daily Beast. “They are not going to make me leave something that I truly love, and I truly love putting on the uniform every single day. I love my country, and I love my state, and I have served them both honorably for over 14 years.”

She added: “I just want to go through my career on a fair basis. I’ve never asked for favoritism just because I am from the LGBTQ community. I just want to be allowed to continue my military career based on my own merits and off my work ethic.”

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