The Navy and Marines have followed the lead of the Army and the Air Force and made it more difficult to discharge transgender people for being transgender.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus signed a memorandum last Wednesday stating, "Effective immediately, separations initiated under the provisions of the reference for service members with a diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria, who identify themselves as transgender, or who have taken steps to externalize the condition, must be forwarded to the assistant secretary of the Navy (manpower and reserve affairs) for decision."
The memo was sent to the chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps.
Sgt. Shane Ortega, a three-time Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and openly transgender soldier at Wheeler Army Airfield, said he was "elated" with the news because it gives transgender troops worried about discharge "the opportunity to breathe."
These types of historic actions are the ones that parallel the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
The military policy changes mean transgender personnel seeking medical treatment won't be automatically separated from service.
In 2013, the mental health manual used by psychiatrists for diagnosis replaced "gender identity disorder" with "gender dysphoria" for individuals who see and feel themselves to be a different gender from their assigned gender, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
"It is important to note that gender nonconformity is not in itself a mental disorder," the association said. "The critical element of gender dysphoria is the presence of clinically significant distress associated with the condition."
Air Force Senior Airman Logan Ireland, an Afghanistan war veteran who, like Ortega, transitioned from female to male, was the invited guest of President Barack Obama at the White House's recent Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month reception.
Ireland, whose command put him on special orders to attend in a male dress uniform, was accompanied by his fiancee, Army Cpl. Laila Villanueva, a transgender woman.
A Williams Institute estimate is that there are 15,500 transgender troops on active duty or in the Guard or Reserve.
[The policy change for transgender troops] doesn't mean that equal opportunity protections, uniforms, medical care and other important issues. It simply means a step forward in the right direction toward ethical and moral human rights treatment for our service members.
The AMA passed a resolution affirming "there is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender individuals from service in the U.S. military."
This important announcement brings the Navy and Marine Corps in line with the Army and the Air Force in the higher level of authority required to discharge a service member for being transgender.
While this is welcome news and an important step in the right direction, it does not change the ultimate risk of being fired that transgender troops continue to face simply for being open and honest about who they are. We need the Department of Defense to expeditiously update the outdated regulations that continue to threaten and harm our transgender service members and their families.
--Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of American Military Partner Association
In March AMPA
and the Transgender American Veterans Association
(TAVA) issued a joint report on the tremendous harm the outdated regulations do to military families.
No one should be forced to choose between defending the country they love and being true to their authentic self. The outdated regulations serve no purpose and only dehumanize and prevent qualified and capable individuals from enlisting and serving. The ban perpetuates trauma to all those involved, both the service member and their family.
We commend the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’ decision in elevating the discharge requirements for transgender sailors both enlisted and officer to secretarial level. This is another step in the process towards open transgender service. We applaud the fact that the major branches of the Defense Department (The Army, Navy and Air Force respectively) have now all moved to elevating the separation of transgender service members in recent months. We again ask that the Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter use this momentum and recent decisions to fully allow opening service in the military for transgender individuals.
--Matt Thorn, OutServe-SLDN