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NCTE Warns Transgender Servicemembers Regarding DADT And Coming Out Trans

The National Center For Transgender Equality (NCTE) has addressed the impact of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in an e-blast today.Thumbnail Link: National Center For Transgender Equality (NCTE) eblast 'Attention Transgender Service Members: It is NOT Safe To Come Out As Transgender' Transsexual and transgender servicemembers, as well as servicemembers who identify as both transgender and transsexual, should pay very close attention to this e-blast. From the e-blast:

As you know, Congress may repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) soon. But you should remember two things: 1) even if Congress votes to repeal the law, actual repeal is contingent on the Department of Defense (DoD) and the President taking some additional steps to finalize the change; and 2) DADT only applies to service members who are gay, lesbian or bisexual-not to transgender service members. Even if DADT is repealed, you can still be discharged for being transgender.

The military can discharge you for being transgender in two ways:

  1. You may be considered medically unfit because of Gender Identity Disorder;
  2. You may be considered medically unfit if you have had genital surgery.

Transgender people are sometimes impacted by “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”:

Even though DADT doesn’t directly apply to you, transgender people have been discharged under DADT in the past and will continue to be until it is repealed. Investigators may not know the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. If you are serving as a woman, but wear men’s clothing or have a masculine appearance, military investigators may assume that you are a lesbian; likewise, if you are serving as a male, but wear women’s clothing or have a feminine appearance, investigators may believe that you are gay.

Transgender people are also impacted by other rules and regulations:

It can be considered prejudicial to good order and discipline to act or dress in ways that don’t meet stereotypes of men and women. For example, service members can be court-martialed for cross-dressing.

There is also a duty to report any change in your medical status. If, for example, you take hormones, or if you have top surgery, there is a duty to report that “change in medical status” to the military. That information could lead to your discharge for being transgender.

Warning about talking to medical professionals and chaplains:

You should also be aware that DoD recently made changes to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” that allow lesbian, gay and bisexual service members to make confidential statements about their sexual orientation to mental health, medical and religious professionals. These protections, unfortunately, do not apply to you. It is not safe to reveal that you are transgender or that you have questions about whether you may be transgender.

[More of NCTE’s e-blast, as well as information from SLDN’s old Survival Guide on trans service members, below the fold.]


Important information for transgender servicemembers

• Service members should NOT come out as transgender.*

• Transgender service members still cannot openly serve within the military.

• Transgender service members will still be discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” until the law is repealed, even though it doesn’t directly apply.

• You should not share information or questions about your gender identity with medical doctors, psychologists or chaplains.**

• Contact SLDN to schedule an appointment with an SLDN attorney if you have questions about your status.


* We respect the fact that some servicemembers may feel they need to come out for a variety of personal reasons. However, you should be aware that coming out as transgender will almost certainly end your career in the military, may lead to disciplinary action, and can have other very negative outcomes for you, and your family. If you feel you need to come out, we urge you to speak to SLDN first so that you are fully informed and understand the discharge and/or discipline processes that will begin after you come out.

** You can speak confidentially to a civilian religious professional, provided that you are specifically seeking spiritual services, such as confession or pastoral care. However, if you seek civilian medical or mental health care, you are required to report this to the military, and so discussing your gender identity with those types of providers puts you at significant risk.

There’s quite a bit more in today’s NCTE e-blast that transgender servicemembers should read.

Below is what the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s (SLDN’s) old Survival Guide stated about currently serving transsexuals (beginning on Page 51; bolded/italicized emphasis added):

Currently Serving Members

Transsexuals, persons who are born with the wrong biological gender, who are thinking about coming out or starting their transition while in the military, should be aware of a strong bias against recognizing the standard of care involving hormone therapy, living in the appropriate gender, and surgery. Thumbnail Link: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Survival GuideThe military medical system does not support the Harry Benjamin standard of care185 and will not provide the medical support necessary for transitioning service members. Generally, the services apply physical standards that make transsexualism a disqualifying condition which impacts on military fitness and a basis for a non-medical discharge. Transsexual service members also face the possibility of being discharged for having a personality disorder.

Service members who seek psychological or medical treatment through the military should know that conversations with military health-care providers are not confidential and any statement concerning being transgender can, and most likely will, be reported to their commands and separation proceedings begun. For those members who seek treatment from civilian providers, beware that each service has regulations governing military members seeking outside health care and may include reporting requirements. Failure to abide by these regulations could potentially place a member at risk for UCMJ action. Further, crossdressing as part of the transition process, even when prescribed by competent medical providers, may be considered a violation of the UCMJ and can potentially be prosecuted at court-martial.

Because the potential exists for the military to apply the rules of the homosexual conduct policy to transgender members, it is important to not make any statements about sexual conduct, even to military health care providers. For example, the military would view a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual, self-described as a heterosexual female, having sexual relations with males to be committing homosexual acts subject to administrative and disciplinary proceedings.

While anecdotal stories of individuals who have transitioned while in the reserves and were allowed to remain in the military have been heard, SLDN has not documented any case where a known transsexual has been allowed to continue in the service.

Any service member considering transitioning while in the military should consult with an attorney knowledgeable about military law and transgender issues first.

The old Survival Guide also has information about transsexuals trying to enlist in the military, as well as information regarding the rest of the transgender spectrum (again beginning on page 51 of the old Survival Guide). The information on transsexual and transgender servicemembers, as well as servicemembers who identify as both transgender and transsexual, in the old Survival Guide serving in the military is still valid, and should be paid very close attention to.


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