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Friedrich Von Steuben: Father of the U.S. military

Neither married nor denied any of the allegations of homosexuality

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Valley Forge

Valley Forge.

This is the third in a series that will run throughout October in conjunction with our friends at the Philadelphia Gay News and partners around the nation. We hope that you treasure these little looks at where we’ve come, as they help us reflect and prepare for where we are going.

By Mark Segal

National Gay History Project

There are few historians today who would doubt that Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Von Steuben was gay.

To appreciate the contributions von Steuben (1730-94) made to the American Revolution, consider this: Before his arrival in Valley Forge in 1778, the Revolutionary Army had lost several battles to Great Britain and, without him, the United States of America might still be the British colonies.

Before Valley Forge, the Revolutionary Army was a loosely organized, rag-tag band of men with little military training. The military fumbled through the beginning of the war for independence lacking training and organization. Gen. George Washington and the Continental Congress knew that without help from additional seasoned military experts, the colonies would clearly lose. Since Washington himself was the best the colonies had, they looked to Europe for someone who could train the troops. To that end, Washington wrote the colonies’ representative in Paris, Benjamin Franklin, to see what he could come up with. Franklin, a renowned inventor, was treated as a celebrity in the French court. This would be pivotal in achieving his two major objectives in France: winning financial support for the revolution and finding military leaders who could bring a semblance of order to the Revolutionary Army.

Franklin learned of a “brilliant” Prussian military genius, Lt. Gen. Baron Frederich von Steuben. Von Steuben had a string of successes (some self-embellished) with the Prussian army. There was one problem. He’d been asked to depart because of his “affections for members of his own sex.” This became urgent in 1777 when he literally escaped imprisonment in what is now Germany and traveled to Paris. In Paris, Franklin was interviewing candidates to assist Washington back in the colonies when he discovered von Steuben.

During the interview process, Franklin discovered von Steuben’s reputation for having “affections” with males and the issue became pressing as members of the French clergy demanded the French court, as in other countries, take action against this sodomite. They had decided to make their effort a crusade and run him out of France.

Franklin had a choice here, and he decided von Steuben’s expertise was more important to the colonies than his sexuality.

At the same time, another colonial representative was in France with the explicit job of recruiting experienced military personnel from Europe to train the Continental Army. He was Silas Deane, a former representative to the first Continental Congress and friend of Franklin. Deane is best known for recruiting the Marquis de Lafayette. He also had a side job as a spy for the colonies. Besides being intelligent themselves, Franklin and Deane knew how to spot intelligence. It would have been impossible for either to not know about the reputation of von Steuben.

Franklin, working with Deane, decided von Steuben’s “affections” were less important than what he, Washington and the colonies needed to win the war with England. Deane learned of von Steuben’s indiscretions – and that the French clergy was investigating – from a letter to the Prince of Hechingen, his former employer, which read in part:

“It has come to me from different sources that M. de Steuben is accused of having taken familiarities with young boys which the laws forbid and punish severely. I have even been informed that that is the reason why M. de Steuben was obliged to leave Hechingen and that the clergy of your country intend to prosecute him by law as soon as he may establish himself anywhere.”

Deane, along with Franklin, acted quickly before the clergy could deport or imprison von Steuben and plotted to send him to the colonies to serve with Washington. Von Steuben was given an advance for passage to America and began as a volunteer, without pay.

Once he’d arrived in Valley Forge, Washington was concerned about von Steuben’s inability to speak English so he appointed two of his officers who spoke French to work as his translators. One of those officers was Alexander Hamilton and the other his close friend John Laurens. Within months, von Steuben gained Washington’s confidence and began to transform the colonial army.

Washington and Franklin’s trust in von Steuben was rewarded. He whipped the rag-tag army of the colonies into a professional fighting force, able to take on the most powerful superpower of the time, England. Some of his accomplishments include instituting a “model company” for training, establishing sanitary standards and organization for the camp and training soldiers in drills and tactics such as bayonet fighting and musket loading. According to the New York Public Library, (“The Papers of Von Steuben”) the following is a list of his achievements and timeline.

February 1778: Arrives at Valley Forge to serve under Washington, having informed Congress of his desire for paid service after an initial volunteer trial period, with which request Washington concurs.

March 1778: Begins tenure as inspector general, drilling troops according to established European military precepts.

1778-79: Writes “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States,” which becomes a fundamental guide for the Continental Army and remains in active use through the War of 1812, being published in over 70 editions.

1780-81: Senior military officer in charge of troop and supply mobilization in Virginia.

1781: Replaced by Marquis de Lafayette as commander in Virginia.

1781-83: Continues to serve as Washington’s inspector general, and is active in improving discipline and streamlining administration in the army.

Spring 1783: Assists in formulating plans for the postwar American military.

Washington rewarded Von Steuben with a house at Valley Forge (still in existence and open for visits) which he shared with his aide-de-camps Capt. William North and Gen. Benjamin Walker. Walker lived with him through the remainder of his life, and von Steuben, who neither married nor denied any of the allegations of homosexuality, left his estate to North and Walker. His last will and testament, which includes the line “extraordinarily intense emotional relationship,” has been described as a love letter to Walker.

The nation that von Steuben helped found has memorialized him with numerous statues, including those at Lafayette Square near the White House and at Valley Forge and Utica, N.Y. (where he is buried) and German Americans celebrate his birthday each year on Sept. 17, hosting parades in New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago.

If George Washington was the father of the nation, then von Steuben, a gay man, was the father of the United States military.

Mark Segal is founder and publisher of Philadelphia Gay News, the country’s oldest LGBT newsweekly. Sometimes called the Dean of the Gay Press, Segal is an award-winning columnist and is fascinated by history.

Introduction to the National Gay History Project:

Historians take note. This year’s National Gay History Project is a shout out to say that the LGBT community will no longer allow insensitivity, intentional or not, to downplay the contributions LGBT people have made to this country. To put it simply, this year’s project is definitive. Without people who were LGBT or LGBT allies, there would be no United States of America. We helped create this nation and we helped keep it together through the Civil War. And indeed, the Founding Fathers not only had us in mind when creating this country, they welcomed and recruited us in their efforts.

Welcome to “We Are America.”

Mark Segal

coordinator

 

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Real Estate

Maximizing your homebuying strategy amid changing interest rates

Consult an expert when navigating unpredictable market

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If you’re looking to buy, stay up to date on market trends.

The Federal Reserve’s recent decision to pause its rate hikes and signal potential reductions in 2024 has sparked a wave of interest among prospective homebuyers. As the housing market remains dynamic, many are wondering if now is the right time to connect with a LGBTQ Realtor and embark on the house hunting journey.

In today’s real estate landscape, where factors like interest rates, market conditions, and personal financial readiness intersect, making informed decisions is key. Let’s explore the considerations involved in maximizing your homebuying strategy, even in the face of potential interest rate reductions down the road.

Assessing the Current Market

Before diving into the homebuying process, it’s crucial to understand the present real estate market conditions. Key factors include housing prices, inventory levels, and local real estate trends. These factors vary widely by location, and what may hold true in one area may not in another. The availability of homes, their affordability, and the demand for properties all play a role in shaping your homebuying experience.

Interest Rates and the Fed’s Actions

While the Federal Reserve’s influence on interest rates is substantial, it’s essential to remember that mortgage rates are influenced by various factors, including market forces, economic conditions, and global events. Predicting the exact timing and extent of rate reductions can be challenging. It’s wise to stay informed about financial news and seek guidance from experts when making rate-related decisions.

Your Financial Preparedness

Homeownership requires a solid financial foundation. Assess your readiness by considering factors such as your credit score, down payment savings, and debt-to-income ratio. Lenders scrutinize these aspects to determine your eligibility for a mortgage. It’s vital to have a stable income and job security, as this will impact your ability to handle homeownership costs.

If you’d like to get pre-qualified for a mortgage, ask your real estate agent for a referral.

Long-Term Plans

Think about your long-term plans and how they align with homeownership. Are you planning to settle in the area for an extended period, or is this a short-term investment? Evaluate your financial flexibility and whether you can comfortably manage homeownership expenses like maintenance, property taxes, and insurance.

Consulting with a Realtor

Connecting with a Realtor who understands your goals and the local market is invaluable. Realtors from platforms like GayRealEstate.com can provide insights into market conditions, housing options, and potential investment opportunities. They can help you assess whether now is the right time to start the house-hunting process based on your unique circumstances.

Refinancing as a Future Option

While securing a lower interest rate in the future is a possibility, it’s not guaranteed. Refinancing depends on your creditworthiness at that time and market conditions. Additionally, there are costs associated with refinancing, so it’s essential to calculate whether the potential savings outweigh the expenses.

The decision to buy a home should be a well-thought-out process that considers multiple factors, including interest rates. While the prospect of rate reductions is enticing, it should be evaluated alongside other crucial elements that shape your homeownership journey. Consulting with real estate professionals at GayReaEstate.com will empower you to make informed decisions, ensuring your homebuying strategy is optimized to your advantage.

Jeff Hammerberg is founding CEO of Hammerberg & Associates, Inc. Reach him at 303-378-5526 or [email protected]. You can also visit GayRealEstate.com.

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Advice

Gay clone wonders if he’s part of an ant colony

Why do we cede control of our social lives to others?

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(Image by Tamara Luiza/Bigstock)

Michael,

Looking at some photos from my weekends at the beach this summer, it struck me that me and my friends (gay men in our 30s-40s) all pretty much look alike. Practically the same haircut, gym body, swimwear, smile. I almost couldn’t tell who was who.

This got me thinking. I live in the same apartment building as a lot of my friends. We all have similar furniture and watch the same shows and eat at the same restaurants and go to the same clubs and dance to the same music and drink the same drinks and vacation in the same places and work out at the same gym and belong to the same sports leagues and go to the same concerts and have the same routines.

I’m not even sure who makes the decisions about what to do. Something is popular, or becomes popular, and it seems like fun and we’re all doing it. Then it’s on to the next thing. But who is deciding what all of us are doing, not doing, or no longer doing?

I think I’m happy, generally, having fun, but I have this strange feeling like I’m part of an ant colony instead of being an individual.

Is this just the way it is? We find our tribe and then we’re all going through life together like this?

Michael replies:

I think you are facing an unavoidable dilemma that comes with being human. How much do you give up your own individuality to fit in? Put differently, what price are you willing to pay, to live an honest life and be known as the person you really are?

Did you come out—which takes great effort and brings some risks—to live a life that is right for you? Or to live pretty much the same life that your friends are living?

If you are happy doing all the same things as your friends, without even knowing for sure why you’re spending your time (that is, your life) doing these things, no problem.

But you feel like you’re part of an ant colony. So clearly, this way of living doesn’t sit all that well with you.

What would you be doing if you weren’t following the group agenda? How would you cut your hair? Would you go to the gym as much? What shows would you like (or not like) to watch? Where would you vacation? Do you like the drinks you’re ordering?

And some more important questions: What do you deeply care about? What are your values? What are the sorts of things you want to dedicate your life to? Are you living in a way that reflects any of this?

This may be the only life you get. Using it well (in my view, at least) means deciding for yourself who you want to be and how you want to live.

Sometimes people are afraid to be different out of fear that they won’t fit in with their friend group. People often tell me they’re worried they will be criticized or viewed negatively for wanting to do things that are different from what “everyone” likes to do. No one wants to be left out of parties or dinners or vacation plans.

Do you think your friends would still want to spend time with you if you weren’t always on board with “the plan,” or suggested some new ideas for activities that you were genuinely interested in?

It’s possible that if you start developing more of an individual identity, you might fit in less with some (or even all) of your friends. Feeling lonely or unpopular is not fun. You may have to decide if that’s better or worse than putting on a persona to fit in and be accepted.

It’s also possible that you can be more thoughtful about what you do, sometimes say “no” and still be part of your friend group.

Even if your friends aren’t always on the same page, I’m hopeful you can continue to have close relationships with at least some of them. A real friendship should be able to tolerate different views and different interests. How could it be otherwise, when all of us are different in some big ways, even from our closest friends?

Thinking about your dilemma through this lens, you could view sharing more of yourself with your friends and letting them know you better as an invitation for greater closeness.

If you make any moves along these lines, perhaps you will find that some of your friends have similar feelings. You might be less alone than you think.

In any case, you will be choosing a more honest life and the opportunity to be known for whom you really are.

(Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D. is a licensed psychologist who works with couples and individuals in D.C. He can be found online at michaelradkowsky.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to [email protected].)

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Financial

New Workforce Program Aims to Help Expand Economic Opportunity for the Trans Community

Finding inclusion while pursuing sustainable careers.

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Sudhesna Kusulia recently graduated from the internship program as a full-time employee at JPMorgan Chase. Photo courtesy Sudhesna Kusulia.

It was only a few years ago that Sudhesna Kusulia would travel 10 kilometers (about 6.21 mi) from her rural village in India to be able to connect to the internet. 

The community she grew up in, Dangaria Kondh, had no network, electricity or constructed houses. When Kusulia got a smartphone in 2020, she gained a window to another world—one where she was able to explore the aspects of her identity she had suppressed since childhood. 

“I realized I’m not alone,” says Sudeshna, who identifies as a trans woman. “I belong in the LGBTQ+ community, there are millions of people like me living life authentically.”

Growing up, Sudeshna had a love for fashion and Bollywood dancing, and recalls carefully selecting dresses and accessories for her sisters, while secretly wishing she could wear them herself. “The disconnect between my soul and the body I was in was very painful to experience,” she explains. Facing these challenges, Sudeshna struggled with depression throughout her journey to self-acceptance. “From a young age, people started bullying me. I isolated myself. I would just cry in my bedroom, beating the wall with no one to hear my pain.”

Social stigma, barriers to opportunities, and lack of family support often push transgender people to the fringes of the society. Though recent policy changes in India have reduced barriers and provided rights to the broader LGBTQ+ community— India’s Supreme Court decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in 2018 — there’s still a long way to go, especially when it comes to advancing equity and inclusion for the country’s gender expansive (transgender and non-binary) population. 

India is the JPMorgan Chase’s second largest market worldwide in terms of number of employees, where is has been providing services to clients since 1945.  Today, the bank has expanded its presence in India, growing its corporate centers across the country, which act as strategic hubs for JPMorgan Chase.  Here, employees are working at the forefront of cloud computing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data science, operations and so much more that is used around the world.

At JPMorgan Chase, the Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs is committed to advancing equity and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community globally. One of the ways the office works to do this is by ensuring all employees and potential employees have an equal opportunity to pursue their full potential and enjoy a fulfilling career. Recognizing both the unique struggles of the trans community in India as well as the immense talent pool that is leading the way for new business and innovation in the region, JPMorgan Chase worked with PeriFerry to create a transgender internship program in 2022. PeriFerry is a first-of-its-kind social enterprise in India that creates upskilling and employment opportunities for the gender expansive community. 

“Across industry, we see that transgender and nonbinary people do not experience equal opportunities to thrive in their careers and achieve sustainable livelihoods,” says Brad Baumoel, global head of JPMorgan Chase’s Office of LGBTQ+ Affairs. “At JPMorgan Chase, we’re committed to creating pathways for the next generation of trans and nonbinary leaders to develop and thrive in their careers.”

Advancing careers in an inclusive workplace

When Sudeshna went to college in 2016 and came out to her parents in 2020, it was a turning point. She finally felt comfortable in her skin and felt ready to pursue her dreams. But while she was ready to enter the workforce, she was worried her identity would hold her back. A friend suggested she connect with PeriFerry.

Sudeshna landed a spot in PeriFerry’s REVIVE program, a residential corporate training program designed for transgender individuals to venture into the workforce with confidence and acceptance, providing training opportunities in professional English communication, digital literacy, financial literacy, aptitude enhancement, resume building, and interview preparation. That’s how she found JPMorgan Chase. 

Through PeriFerry’s REVIVE program, JPMorgan Chase creates dedicated internship roles to gender expansive people across the company’s three corporate centers in India.  The 20-week program, inclusive of on-the-job training, is made up of eight weeks of classroom training by PeriFerry, followed by a 12-week internship with JPMorgan Chase. The first and the second cohort had 13 and 11 transgender candidates respectively, who interned across different parts of the business and in operations teams. Interns also were able to participate with the bank’s internal Gender Expansive Council, which organized sessions where employees shared their personal experiences as trans leaders at the bank.

Since the internship program launched in June 2022, it has resulted in the hire of over twenty full-time employees. 

Connecting with the community for support 

While her personal journey has been challenging, and despite rising anti-LGBTQ+ laws and sentiment across the globe, Sudeshna wants to inspire other transgender youth to recognize the beauty in themselves. “It’s a struggle for us. It will take decades before we feel complete acceptance, but it needs to be done. It has to be done,” she says.

According to Sudeshna, the two critical areas that the trans community needs support on are finding steady, respectful employment and a good, safe place to live. Across the globe, JPMorgan Chase supports nonprofits dedicated to advancing economic inclusion for the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ+ community, including transgender youth and elder communities. 

Learn more about how JPMorgan Chase is helping expand economic opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community, and advance equality and inclusion for employees globally.  

Visit our careers page for opportunities.  

© 2023 JPMorgan Chase & Co. All rights reserved. JPMorgan Chase is an Equal Opportunity Employer, including Disability/Veterans.

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