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Jun 17, 2019

Emily Harman, host of Onward Podcast, interviews her Naval Academy classmate and Clinical Program Director of the John Hopkins Center for Transgender Health, Paula Neira. Paula shares how she overcame a traumatic loss (her naval career) but kept moving forward, being consistent in her core values. In moving onward, Paula realized her calling in life was broader than just serving in the Navy and that she has been blessed with the opportunity to help others in many ways.   


Episode Highlights:

  • Paula explains the history of transgender individuals serving in the U.S. military.
  • Paula shares why she decided to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
  • Paula explains why she had to leave the Navy and end her naval career.
  • Paula shares important lessons (things to do or not do) that she learned from dealing with her greatest adversity.
  • Paula discusses past suicidal thoughts.
  • What does it take to respond to discrimination?  
  • What questions does Paula typically get asked about being transgender?
  • Paula explains her role as co-sponsor of the new USNS Harvey Milk, an underway replenishment oiler.
  • Paula and Emily talk about how we don’t always know the grand plan for our lives - your life is your life. There is no “supposed to be.”
  • Paula explains how her experience shaped how she approaches her current job  as Clinical Program Director of the John Hopkins Center for Transgender Health.
  • Most societal change happens incrementally.
  • What should a parent do if their child questions their gender identity and how did Paula’s parents react?
  • In times of adversity, you have to take care of yourself and ask for help when it is needed.
  • Paula shares that her Naval Academy classmates have treated with respect since she identified as transgender.  


3 Key Points:

  1. Our country is stronger because of our diversity. People should not be denied opportunity ( i.e to serve or access medically necessary care) based on other’s prejudice.
  2. The struggle to move our country forward is often fraught with adversity and we have to keep going.
  3. For people who fight for civil rights or social justice, there are some important things to consider:
  • Be Resolute (Never Surrender, Live by Your Core Values)
  • Be Strategic (Make decisions based on achieving victory and not satisfying emotion/ego)
  • Be Healthy (Self-care, Realistic perspectives, Patience)


Tweetable Quotes:

  • “The only direction you can go in after dealing with adversity is forward.” – Paula Neira
  • “It didn’t matter how good I was at my job. It didn’t matter how dedicated I was. It didn’t matter what skills I had. The only thing that mattered was that my gender identity didn’t align with the sex that I was assigned at birth.” – Paula Neira
  • “Part of being a leader is taking care of your people, and we’ve put into place regulations that prevent them from doing that.” – Paula Neira


Resources Mentioned:

  • Paula Neira: Linkedin
  • Listeners can contact Paula at work via email or phone 443-287-7161


Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 press 1

The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that’s available to anyone, even if you’re not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. The caring, qualified responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances.


The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25.


JHCTH (Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health)


The mission of the Johns Hopkins Center for Transgender Health is to reduce health care disparities and improve the overall health of the transgender community through world-class clinical care, medical education and research. Embracing diversity and inclusion, the Center for Transgender Health provides affirming, objective, person-centered care to improve health and enhance wellness; educates interdisciplinary health care professionals to provide culturally competent, evidence-based care; informs the public on transgender health issues; and advances medical knowledge by conducting biomedical research.