OutServe is an organization for LGBT military servicemembers that was created in response to anti-gay harassment that servicemembers were receiving under the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy. They became a major player in the campaign to repeal DADT, working on the Pentagon's repeal survey and actively approaching the media to tell their stories. In March 2011, OutServe began publishing a magazine online and in print at military bases worldwide.
Metro Weekly is reporting in an exclusive that their January/February 2012 issue confronts the next step in the long-term battle for equality:
Jonathan Mills, a staff sergeant in the Air Force, serves as the executive editor of OutServe Magazine. He tells Metro Weekly that ''after the smoke cleared'' from the repeal of ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'' which took place on Sept. 20, 2011, the ''common sentiment echoed by our staff and members was, 'When are we gonna start pushing the T of LGBT?'"
OutServe Magazine interviewed six servicemembers who are transgender and want to serve without fear of being rejected or kicked out of the military for their gender identity.
One of the servicemembers who uses the pseudonym "Bryan" says:
''I want to speak out about it because I know a lot of people are not going to, and I feel like for anything to change … a group of people are going to have to step up to the plate and talk about it … like people did during the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' repeal.
''I want to be part of that so maybe one day I can … serve openly, and so other people can.''
The regulations related to transgender military service are separate from the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell because they're not codified in law the way 10 USC § 654 was. They are simply DOD regulations. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network explains:
[After a physical examination] the military may reject the potential service member if he or she has had any type of genital surgery. Furthermore, even if the potential service member has not had surgery but identifies as transgender, the military considers this to be a mental health condition which disqualifies them from entering military service[.]
Activists are involved in serious discussions about how to lift this ban. When we talk about equality, it means equality for everyone. Scott Wooledge reports from the Creating Change conference that:
[Sue] Fulton [OutServe member and West Point Advisory Board member] and Katie Miller presented a panel at the Gay & Lesbian Task Force's national Conference Creating Change this weekend, titled: "The Death of DADT and the Path Forward."
Under the path forward portion Outserve identified four tasks still to be accomplished by advocates for the LGBT community:
- Acquire full equivalent spousal benefits for same-sex couples
- Lift the DOD ban on Trans servicemembers
- End the ban on HIV-positive servicemembers in non-combat roles
- Create an mechanism for accountability for instances of LGBT discrimination.
Metro Weekly notes that Miller herself wrote the OutServe article:
Katie Miller, the former West Point cadet who resigned over the discrimination she faced under DADT, wrote the OutServe Magazine article. ''I knew Katie was a great writer," says Mills, "but once I got the piece, I was blown away. She did such a great job, and I'm so proud of everyone who was involved in this specific article.''
Miller had attended West Point Academy and was ranked in the top 10 of her class until she resigned after repeatedly being harassed and becoming increasingly unwilling to compromise her identity:
I have created a heterosexual dating history to recite to fellow cadets when they inquire. I have endured unwanted approaches by male cadets for fear of being accused as a lesbian by rejecting or reporting these events. I have been coerced into ignoring derogatory comments towards homosexuals for fear of being alienated for my viewpoint. In short, I have lied to my classmates and compromised my integrity and my identity by adhering to existing military policy.
But this policy needs to be eliminated just as much as Don't Ask, Don't Tell needed to be repealed. The same problems are occurring over and over. The same urgency is necessary. If people want to serve in the military no one should prevent them from doing so based on outdated and misguided ideas of gender and sex that somehow ended up as military regulations.
The toll this is taking on human beings who only want to serve their country is horrifying. As Bryan says, people just want to serve and they want to be considered a respected part of their communities:
''I love being able to say I'm in the Army, being able to say I'm an M.P., love the training I do, the camaraderie I've built. I just want people to know we're out there serving our country, just like any other soldier – straight, gender normative, gay or lesbian, whatever. It's tearing soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines apart. It's tearing us apart as a family and as a community, and it's really detrimental to our lives.''
OutServe is taking a historic step in this and since their magazine reaches military bases, it might help to open the minds of people who may not have thought about gender identity and military service and the repercussions of persecuting fellow servicemembers. If everyone can come together and fight this ban relentlessly, we can get it done.