I'm not generally in favor of military service. To me it was a dehumanizing experience, not much better than being incarcerated or otherwise institutionalized.
But let's face it. There has been no better measure of the acceptance of certain classes of people in our society than whether or not they are allowed to serve equally in the military. People who were 4F at the time of WWII and the Korean War were typically shunned and that carries over to the treatment of people with disabilities to this day. Blacks were racially discriminated against in the military until Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, which led to the final all-black military units being abolished in September, 1954.
Don't Ask Don't Tell (Defense Department Directive 1304.26) was eliminated on September 20, 2011, prohibiting military personnel from discriminating against or harassing openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members.
A new study was released last week by the Palm Center (a San Francisco think tank) which concluded that ending the military's ban on transgender personnel would be "administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome." A previous Palm Center study called for lifting of that ban in March of this year. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in May that he was open to reviewing the issue of transgender eligibility.
As always, I read the studies so you don't have to.
It is estimated that there are approximately 15,500 currently serving in the military who suffer from some degree of gender dysphoria. Because of the ban those service members cannot access medically-necessary health care without fear of being discharged from the service.
The study was co-chaired by Major-General Gale S. Pollock, US Army (Ret.) and Shannon Minter, legal director of the the National Center for Lesbian Rights. Other commission members were Brigadier Generals Clara Adams-Enders, US Army (Ret.) and Thomas A. Kolditz, US Army (Ret.), Captain Lory Manning, US Navy (Ret.), Paula M. Neira, RN, CEN, (Lt., US Navy and Naval Reserves, 1985-1991), and Professors Kylar Broadus, JD (Lincoln University), Diane H. Mazur, JD (Florida College of Law) and Tammy S. Schultz, Director of National Security and Joint Warfare and Associate Professor of Strategic Studies at the United States Marine Corps War College (Georgetown University).
The Palm Center is a research initiative of the Political Science Department of San Francisco State University and is partially funded by transgender billionaire philanthropist Jennifer Natalya Pritzker, a retired lieutenant colonel.
The Commission studied 18 foreign nations which allow transgender personnel to serve openly. The 18 countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The study takes the position that the United States will some day likely join them. Given this, the focus of the study is identifying 14 relevant issues with transgender service.
Inclusion of transgender personnel, however, is not primarily about administrative matters, but about core military values and principles: all military personnel should serve with honor and integrity, which means that they should not have to lie about who they are; all members of the military should be treated with respect; all persons capable of serving their country should be allowed to do so; and the military should not needlessly separate personnel who are willing and able to serve.
Unlike “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the Congressional statute that for nearly two decades prohibited gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from serving openly in the armed forces, the rules and regulations governing transgender military service appear in military instructions under the authority and jurisdiction of the President and Secretary of Defense.The study acknowledges that an inclusive policy will require some adjustment, but claims that it will eventually eliminate inefficiency and waste of time, money and energy, but in the end will result in the upholding of some of the military's core values.
The Commission was guided by seven inviolable principles, namely that needs to promote military readiness, formulate unified policy, minimize regulatory revision, provide medically necessary health care, follow scientific consensus, apply relevant foreign military lessons, and preserve flexibility.
The 14 administrative issues identified as needing to be addressed are:
1. Gender marker changes
Because the military already relies on the accuracy of passports for establishing identification and because the State Department has instituted provisions for changing gender markers for transgender citizens, there is no reason that the military should not be doing the same.
Identification that accurately reflects gender presentation and appearance is an essential component of maintaining good order and discipline. No new procedures are needed for name changes within DEERS. Any service member can change his or her name by submitting a court order documenting a new legal name.2. Confidentiality and privacy
Information related to transgender status and medical care will be subject to the same rules regulating confidentiality of medical information that protect all service members.3. Grooming
Upon the beginning of transition, transgender service members should conform to service-specific regulations governing grooming, appearance, and wearing of the uniform for their gender identity.4. Uniforms
The US military should follow the British model by establishing a policy to issue gender-correct uniforms all at once. Upon the beginning of transition, transgender service members should be issued new, gender-correct uniforms.5. Cross-dressing
In circumstances in which uniform regulations do not apply, the end of transgender disqualification rules should eliminate any need for gender-based regulation of off-duty dress that is compatible with gender identity. However, in duty-related circumstances in which uniform regulations do apply, transgender service members should continue to dress in accordance with their gender assigned at birth unless and until they commence transition under medical guidance.6. Housing and bathroom facilities
Management of privacy concerns in military facilities has traditionally been a matter of command judgment and discretion, and the military has extensive experience in addressing those concerns when men and women live and shower in close quarters. Similar issues that arise as a result of transgender service may require resolution on a case-by-case basis, and commanders should not be constrained by across-the-board policies.Going further, because it is acknowledged that this is a touchy issue, guidelines are given for commanders:
a) Upon the beginning of the transition process, transgender personnel should use the accommodations of their target gender.
b) When practical, facilities should have some private, enclosed changing areas, showers, and toilets for use by any service member who desires them.
c) Temporary, reasonable compromises may be appropriate for transitioning individuals.
d) Transgender personnel should not be required to use separate facilities.
e) Commanders should not create separate, new bathroom facilities or living quarters for the exclusive purpose of accommodating or segregating transgender personnel.
f) Commanders should have the discretion to modify bathroom and shower schedules as well as berthing and billeting assignments on a case-by-case basis if necessary to maintain good morale, order, and discipline.
g) Service members should be given the opportunity to wear shower shorts and/or shirts during compulsory group showers.
7. Physical standards
The policy underlying the military’s standards of physical fitness is to “maintain physical readiness through appropriate nutrition, health, and fitness habits,” including “aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and desirable body fat composition.”Physical fitness standards are adjusted for both gender and age and transgender personnel who medically transition should meet the fitness standard of their target gender. Current standards permit a temporary waiver for medical reasons and transgender personnel should be allowed this remedial opportunity, if needed, in order to train for the new standard.
8. Eligibility for gender-specific occupational specialties
The Department of Defense is currently reviewing all military occupational specialties that exclude women to determine if gender-neutral standards would be appropriate. In the interim, however, and as long as gender-based restrictions limit assignment to some positions, transgender personnel who transition should be subject to assignment rules applicable to their target gender.9. Marriage benefits
The policy of the Department of Defense is to treat all married military personnel equally.10. Harassment, equal opportunity, and non-discrimination
The military should follow the precedent set by the Social Security Administration, which assumes that marriages remain valid for their duration even if one or both of the spouses undergoes gender transition.
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission considers discrimination on the basis of gender identity to be a form of sex discrimination, and the same standard should apply in military settings.
Upon the removal of prohibitions against transgender service, leaders should emphasize that harassment of other service members will not be tolerated and will be swiftly and appropriately addressed, and Military Equal Opportunity offices should provide venues for transgender service members to report incidents of harassment or discrimination.11. Early separation from the armed forces
Transgender status, in and of itself, should not be considered as legitimate grounds for early separation.12. Apprehension (arrest), detention, and incarceration
While only an insignificant number of transgender military personnel may become the subject of apprehension and detention, a model policy should be developed in line with federal standards established under the Prison Rape Elimination Act and best practices from civilian police departments and prisons.13. Selective Service
All non-transgender men who are between the ages of 18 and 25 and who live in the United States must register with the Selective Service. Individuals assigned female at birth who transition to male, however, are not required to register, while individuals assigned male at birth who transition to female must remain registered, even after the completion of gender transition. Unlike other federal agencies, in other words, the Selective Service Administration considers gender transition to be irrelevant, and only recognizes gender that was assigned at birth. Thus, in the event of a return of conscription after the lifting of the military’s prohibition against transgender service, transgender women would be subject to the draft while transgender men would be exempt. Given that the purpose of Selective Service registration is to facilitate filling the military’s ranks if the need arises, Selective Service should amend its rules to recognize gender transition and require registration accordingly.14. Supporting transgender service members
Even with a clear recognition of their need to undergo gender transition, some transgenderIncluded in the report is a review of medical gender transition and guidelines for how it should be handled. Also included are guidelines for training individuals who need it in order to adjust to the presence of transgender personnel.
personnel may not necessarily be aware of how to communicate about their transition with the chain of command, how to manage issues of disclosure to colleagues, and how to anticipate issues that may arise from undergoing gender transition while on active status. The military should prepare a brief memorandum, modeled on the Australian Air Force’s Air Force Diversity Handbook: Transitioning Gender in Air Force, to provide advice about these and other related matters to transgender personnel contemplating or undergoing transition.
It just comes down to being fit for duty, and that’s the bottom line. The reports lays out pretty easily how we can do it. I’m hopeful this will continue to push the ball forward in ending this unnecessary ban.
There are two ways it could happen. Either the ban will end before [President Obama] is out of office, or it will take another 15 years.
--Maj. Jeff Mueller, co-chair of the Board of Directors at OutServe-SLDN
Every time there’s a change in policy to allow people to serve openly, it’s really only gotten better for the military. Once they change the policy on transgender service members, I think it’ll be just like that. They’d realize it’s the same people; they can do the same job.
It’s something that I take a lot of pride in, something that’s very fulfilling. I really enjoy helping soldiers and playing an active role in America. I love America, and I love serving.
--Amanda, transgender service member