Bridging the Dream Gap

Bridging the Dream Gap

I want to share a story, one that many of you might find familiar. It’s about dreams, the kind that seem so distant they blur at the edges, and fade into the horizon, especially for our youth.

You see, there’s this thing called “the dream gap.” It’s the void that appears when the role models in the world don’t mirror your own image or experiences. It’s when the astronauts and CEOs, the ones breaking barriers and reaching for the stars, don’t seem to share any part of your story, or when the heroes and trailblazers you hear about don’t reflect the identities we embody. This gap can make dreams feel distant, almost as if those achievements, those extraordinary lives, are reserved for others. Those dreams are only for people like them, not for people like you.

Growing up, my dreams were filled with the roar of jet engines, the vastness of the sky, and the unknown of the stars. But I also held a truth inside me. I knew for as long as I can remember that I am transgender. And for the longest time, I thought this truth and these dreams couldn’t coexist. How could I be a fighter pilot, a test pilot, and also be true to myself? 

Society’s narrative, the one I grew up in, shouted, that this dream wasn’t meant for me. I was forced into an impossible choice.  

But dreams are tenacious things – they don’t die easily. My journey in the Navy, as challenging as it was exhilarating, taught me that. Nineteen years of service, over 1700 flight hours, 60 combat missions that tested every fiber of my being. It was relentless pursuit of excellence. I flew jets you’ve seen in movies, tested the limits of what’s possible, and somewhere along the way, I realized that being transgender didn’t tether my dreams—it propelled them.

I stand before you now, not just as a naval aviator, a test pilot, and someone who’s pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in the sky, but as a proud transgender military service-member. My identity has enriched my perspective, allowed me to connect more deeply, and lead with a kind of integrity that only comes from embracing one’s whole self.

To every young person, to every person out there wrestling with their identity and their dreams: you are not alone. The dream gap, as vast as it may seem, is a mirage. We’re building bridges across it, every day, with every achievement, no matter how small they seem.

I chased my dream.  I became a test pilot, I’ve touched the edge of space, and I got to find my whole self, transgender and all, while serving in the world’s finest navy. I’ve lived a dream, one of my younger self, that once seemed impossible.

Yes, visibility comes with its risks. It demands courage to live openly, to claim your space in a world that might not understand. But remember, being visible, being truly seen, is a beacon for those still navigating their journey. For those who can, let your light shine. For those who aren’t ready, know that you are seen, you are valued, and above all, you are not alone.

On Transgender Day of Visibility, let’s remind ourselves and the world: We are here, we are limitless, and our dreams are just as valid. Together, we are redefining what’s possible, breaking through ceilings, and flying higher than ever before.

Thank you for standing with me, with us, today and every day. Together, we soar.