The struggle for equal rights for the transgender community in the armed forces will inevitably be compared to the effort to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, but there are key differences.
A main concern for transgender veterans is that they simply don't have enough numbers to drive a policy change. It's estimated that transgender people make up 0.6 percent of the 21.8 million US veterans. That's barely one in 200.
While overcoming the math may turn out to be a major obstacle, the transgender community also has a huge advantage that the gay community did not -- they don't have to deal with Congress. The policy barring transgender individuals from the armed forces is just that; a policy, not a law.
But Michael Segal, a neurologist who is also heavily involved with the military through the Advocates for ROTC program, cautions that a 180 degree change might not be the way to go.
"Even a lot of transgender people will say that they don't think someone who's actively going through a transition at that time should be in the military," Segal said. "I don't think you're going to get the same pressure for an all-or-nothing thing."
Whether or not the fight is for a complete change of policy, though, the transgender community's struggle for equal rights in the military may begin far away from the armed forces.
Monica's fight didn't begin with the U.S. Submarine Veterans.
"I do recall praying [to God] at age five to turn me into a girl," said Monica, who doesn't want to reveal her given name.
But, growing up, she wasn't always preoccupied with the thought of being a different gender. She played with toy guns, thought cowboys were cool, and liked things boys like -- such as girls. When she was a teenager, Monica was nearly consumed with the idea of losing her virginity. Typical boy stuff.
In 1970, she joined the Navy just like her father, spent much of her time on a submarine without issue, then left around a decade later and started to cross-dress more and more.
During a trip to San Francisco, one of her male friends pulled her aside and revealed to Monica that he was going to become a woman. "And all the stuff [he] was saying was putting the pieces of the puzzle in my mind back together," Monica said. "It was like [he] was talking about me. That is a definite hard point in my life when I realized I needed to transition."
In 1987, Monica told her wife, who already hated the cross-dressing. Monica told her 15 and 13-year-old boys, the youngest of whom resented her for years afterward. She told her parents, who suddenly wouldn't let her drive to their home, the one Monica grew up in, five miles down the road.
After her transition, the world around Phoenix seemed much too small. She moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and co-founded Transgender Veterans of America, bringing the private battles of many like herself out into the public.