The Commander: Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon

mayor-moon“When I think about what I had to go through, that’s nothing compared to the challenges that the Transgender community has to go through. I’m so in awe at the courage and the persistence of what you have to do. I’m just blown away.”

 

The Mayor sat in the front row center, fiddling with his cell phone. I couldn’t help but notice it, sitting directly behind him in the second row. And neither could Thomi Clinton, who was introducing all the dignitaries who honored our community at the Trans Pride 2016 ceremony. “There’s Mayor Moon, texting Obama,” she quipped, referencing a meeting Mayor Moon attended with the President earlier in the month.

“Despite what Thomi said,” he later explained, “I wasn’t texting a moment ago, I was following the news very closely, and as a retired Naval officer, and as someone who was gay in the military, it still looks like by this Friday the military should finally approving Transgender people serve their country in the United States Army.”

I suspect that the Mayor was hoping to break some news to his constituents, but that would have to wait for another couple of days. But it didn’t matter; Robert Moon is a great friend to the community, and his supportive words were greeted enthusiastically.

“When I think about what I had to go through, that’s nothing compared to the challenges that the Transgender community has to go through. I’m so in awe at the courage and the persistence of what you have to do. I’m just blown away.”

This was definitely not pandering. Everyone in the audience could sense his sincerity; you can’t fake that. No one could. Well, maybe De Nero.

I thought of the Mayor’s statements when the ban was lifted Thursday afternoon. I wanted to get his impressions for the magazine, but I knew that my deadline conspired against me. There simply wasn’t enough time to set up an appointment, especially considering the long, holiday weekend.

I decided to write him an email, and ask him if he could quickly jot down a few thoughts and send them to me, but I feared that even that would be a long shot.

Within a half-hour, I received a response, but not the one I anticipated. Although City Hall was closed, he would be in his office Friday morning and he could meet with me at 9:00 AM.

Moon was eighteen when he enrolled in Annapolis, spent 26 years in service, retiring with the rank of Commander in 1994. Robert met Bob Hammack in 1981, and they have been together ever since. They married in 2008.

“I would have loved to stay the Navy longer because I love the Navy passionately,” he lamented, “but I mean I love Bob more. So it’s just wasn’t compatible. But you know it was a challenge, but I didn’t have to be that brave.”

I knew the Mayor was downplaying his own, personal ordeal, as military officers often will. They don’t complain; they’re stronger than that. And I’m not just talking about physical strength, I’m talking about strength of character and conviction.

There were those long months he spent on duty in the Persian Gulf, exiled without so much as a loving letter to share. He couldn’t risk its accidental discovery, or for that matter, an overhead telephone conversation. He knew what it meant to be kept apart from the person you love, to deny their existence, to pretend to be someone different than the person you born to be.

He is “blown away” by the courage and strength of the Transgender men and women who had no option but to serve their country in denial and forced silence, because he had been there himself. Their struggle for acceptance was once his struggle; he knows exactly what they had to go through to be recognized and accepted by the military. Their pride is his pride.