Respect Equality

Woman sues US military after bosses told her to ‘appear more feminine’

Story at a glance

  • A woman is suing the U.S. Army and Air Force after being told to grow out her hair and wear makeup to avoid facing professional consequences.
  • Kristin Kingrey, who is gay, keeps her hair cropped short and does not wear makeup. She says in her lawsuit that her colleagues and superiors had previously spread rumors that she was going through a gender transition.
  • It is typically not possible to sue the Army or Air Force in federal court, but in this case, it is possible because Kingrey is suing as a civilian, her lawyer has said.

A woman is suing the U.S. Army and Air Force for discrimination and harassment, alleging in a lawsuit that she was told she would face professional consequences if she did not grow out her hair or wear makeup.

According to the lawsuit, Tech Sgt. Kristin Kingrey, a member of the West Virginia Air National Guard for 14 years as both a military and civilian employee, was hired for a full-time human resources position with the guard in 2019.

Before starting her new job, Kingrey, who is gay, was reportedly told by leadership that the West Virginia guard’s vice wing commander, Col. Michael Cadle, said she should alter her appearance to look more conventionally feminine, according to the lawsuit.

Cadle reportedly said that if she did not grow out her hair or wear makeup, her career would suffer.

Kingrey’s lawsuit describes her as “tall and broad in stature. She keeps her hair short in length and does not don make-up or jewelry.”


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The suit claims Kingrey has been previously harassed over her appearance by colleagues and superiors, who spread rumors that she was going through a gender transition. 

Shortly after Cadle’s comments were made, Kingrey was told that funding had been pulled for the human resources job for which she had already been hired. However, the same position was soon reposted online and another person was hired, according to the lawsuit.

Kingrey was later passed over for another human resources job and remains in a part-time position which has been classified as “temporary.”

“This is about what they think a lesbian female should look like,” Kingrey told The Daily Beast in a recent interview. “It leaves me in such disbelief. They have made this my life. Whenever I discuss it I am at a loss for words.”

“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,” she added.

Kingrey filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2020, according to the lawsuit, and was soon after notified that she and two other women were being investigated by the National Guard for “fraternization,” or socializing with people of a different rank.

Kingrey says she believes this was retaliation for her EEOC complaint.

“In all my time in the military, no one has blinked when men do it — hunting, going fishing, playing golf, families vacationing together — but here we are, three women, under investigation for the same,” she told The Daily Beast. “I find it very odd that shortly after I filed my Equal Employment Opportunity Complaint I find myself under investigation.”

Kingrey filed her lawsuit against Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall in November, shortly after the EEOC ruled that no discrimination had taken place.

Under typical circumstances, the Army and Air Force cannot be sued in federal court, Kingrey’s attorney told the Daily Beast, but it is possible in this case because Kingrey is suing as a civilian.

While neither the Army nor the Air Force has filed a legal response to Kingrey’s suit, the West Virginia National Air Guard in a statement in December said it “is fully committed to an inclusive and diverse workforce free from harassment.”

Changing America has reached out for comment.


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