Highest ranking trans member of US Space Force says ‘inclusion is a national security imperative’
Space Force Lt. Colonel Bree Fram, 43, is claims that “inclusion is a national security imperative.” Fram is trans and uses the platform of Lt. Colonel in the Space Force to broadcast the message of trans inclusivity. Fram gave these remarks in October when Fram was featured at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in October.
“We fight today,” Fram continued, “and we are going to fight in the future using brain power. And if that brain, who’s going to revolutionize the way we fight in space, we fight in cyber just happens to be in a trans body, you should want them all serving alongside me.”
The Most Powerful Women Summit was hosted on October 12, just one day after National Coming Out Day in the US, a made-up holiday to celebrate people coming out as not straight. The range of gender identities go from lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans to a host of other identities like non-binary and gender queer. Queer itself is a political identity and not particularly about gender or sexual preference.
Fram was introduced with a reference to “the power of Coming Out.”
“It’s a day that is undoubtedly meaningful to our next guest,” she said. “Lieutenant Colonel Bree Fram Colonel is the highest ranking out active duty transgender officer in the US Department of Defense.
“She’s an astronautical engineer in the United States Space Force and currently works at the Pentagon development space acquisition policy. Bree also co-leads the Department of the Air Force LGBTQ+ initiatives team which eliminates barriers to LGBTQ+ service,” went Fram’s intro.
Fram was brought in “to talk about trans rights under attack across society, and the importance of inclusion in the military, the business world and beyond.”
Fram spoke about Fram’s work in Space Force, saying that it has been “fueling my other passion of building a culture because we have this opportunity to develop a 21st century military culture.” Fram said this was a “once in multiple generations” opportunity. Space Force was the first new military force in decades when it was launched by Donald Trump during his presidency.
Fram highlighted the Guardian Spirits document which guides Space Force, saying it is what the military agency believes in. “It has words you wouldn’t expect to see in a military leadership document,” Fram said.
“It talks about embracing diversity and engaging inclusively. It talks about the value of openness, authenticity, and vulnerability. I mean vulnerability? In a military leadership document? That’s wild to think of. Because vulnerability, the ability to show ourselves that we’re human is that opening to connection, and embracing that connection with our teams makes us all better,” Fram said.
“To that point and to that spirit,” the interviewer asked Fram about how own coming out day, and the courage it took for him to announce to the world that he was actually a woman trapped in a man’s body. This came during Fram’s previous tenure with the Air Force. Fram said being trans in the Air Force wasn’t allowed, until finally it was in 2016 after Barack Obama’s Secretary of Defense said it was totally fine to be trans and serve.
Fram posted a message on Facebook that he was actually trans and found nothing but support from colleagues. Yet, Fram doesn’t think there’s enough inclusion even seven years on from that. Fram said there was “almost a sense of duty, an obligation,” to pave the way for more trans people.
“As one of the senior most trans folks in the military,” Fram said. “We embrace that leadership ethos of ‘leave no one behind.’ How do we bring people along behind us? How do we make sure that they don’t face the barriers that we had to face? And that if we can do that by cutting down the trees and paving the road behind us, so that the people joining the military today can get to the places that I’ve been to with the energy to go further. That’s success. That’s leadership building. That is what we need to do in the military to deliver capability far into the future.”
Fortune’s interviewer agreed that there is still so much more road to pave. “I want to lean a little bit more into some of the barriers and challenges that still remain today,” the interviewer asked. “What are some of the challenges that remain specifically for transgender service members in the military?”
“I think one of the biggest barriers that is out there are stereotypes,” Fram said, “of who trans people are and who trans people in the military are is an even wilder and more outlandish stereotype.”
Fram leaned into stereotypes that may have been leveled at women about military leaders assuming that trans persons would be too concerned about their wardrobe or their emotions. These are not the appropriate stereotypes for men in women’s clothes, Fram said, despite dressing, acting, and presenting in a way that mimics female stereotypes.
Fram linked the need for trans inclusion in the military to trans inclusion everywhere, saying “And for your organizations it’s the same way.”
“Those perspectives that we get from a diverse set of individuals, it’s been talked about on stage a lot regarding the science behind high-performing teams, we need those perspectives. But it’s inclusion that actually drives that, because you can bring people in, and if they don’t feel safe to speak up, if they don’t feel safe, to bring their whole selves to work, you’re not going to get the value of the diversity,” Fram continued.
“So for us, it is absolutely critical to drive our future success as an organization and potentially on the battlefield. And I think it’s the same way for all of you, because we can’t believe that talent that is going to revolutionize the way we do business.”
Fram highlighted the section of the talk at the Summit that was most important for Fram, quoting himself, saying “In response to a question, I finished with ‘Highlight us, share our stories, show the achievement, and watch possibility bloom in young people’s imaginations.’ Please help show that no matter who they are, the future is open to everyone.”
The question from a woman eager to support trans persons was “What can we do to help continue to push your message forward and support you while you are in service?”
“So one of the things I think all of us can do is tell stories, share stories, share with people that you know, LGBTQ individuals, and highlight them in your companies in the work that you do. Because representation truly does matter. And that ability to see someone who’s done something incredible, and to see that from a young person’s perspective, and give them that opportunity to say, ‘I can do that,'” Fram said.
Fram then compared trans rights in the military to the fight for civil rights, saying “And it’s not a new concept. In fact, we can go all the way back to Frederick Douglass in 1881.”
“So, highlight us. Tell our stories. Show the achievement and watch possibility bloom in young people’s imaginations,” Fram said to the women at the conference. “One of the most rewarding things I ever do is give speeches, and I see a young individual come up after our afterwards and speak with me and say, ‘I never knew that was possible for me.’ And that touches me because it’s amazing to see that open up for someone.”
Fram is partnered with a woman and the two have daughters. Fram is president of Sparta, which is an advocacy group to support trans persons and trans recruits in the US Armed Forces. Fram began dressing in women’s clothes as a teenager. Fram transitioned while in the military after getting the necessary diagnosis of gender dysphoria in 2019.