A transgender veteran is being honored this weekend at a scholarship luncheon in East Peoria. Leanna Bradley is the namesake of a college scholarship for LGBTQ students.
Leanna Bradley joined the Navy in 1955, when she was 18. During her 30 years in the military, she served as a man.
“To live in that secrecy, for me, was an absolute must. And being in the military was even worse for me, because I had to keep these emotions pent up,” Bradley said.
Bradley says she wore nylon stockings -- with the feet cut out -- underneath her uniform pants, just to feel connected to her true self. Now in her eighties, Bradley enjoys wearing makeup and spending her days with her life partner Jamie Jansen, who’s also a veteran. Jansen says before they transitioned, around the age of 60, the concept of transgender was relatively nonexistent.
“As time went on, we became what we are today," Jansen said. "So, we grew into this as much as a girl grows into being a woman.”
Bradley and Jansen live together in Galesburg.
Leanna Bradley will be honored during a luncheon hosted by the Peoria Transgender Society and the Acorn Equality Fund Sat. The two nonprofits established a college scholarship in Bradley’s name for high school graduates identifying as transgender or gender non-binary with significant, demonstrable service to the LGBTQ community.
Following Bradley's 30-year service in the Navy, she’s been married, worked as a freight truck driver and advocated for LGBTQ rights. Bradley says even though she didn’t transition until age 60, she’s lived a full life.
“All I ever wanted was love, understanding, and to be able to love somebody, and give back to them,” Bradley said.