CommunityPam's House Blend

What Would The Repeal Of DADT Mean For Transgender Servicemembers?

I don’t have to look too far to see that I’ve personally become a lightning rod regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Basically, I’ve become the personification for fear-mongering over the idea that repeal of DADT will either immediately, or eventually, result in transgender people being able to serve openly in the military services. As I highlighted in yesterday’s diary (entitled FRC’s DADT Press Conference: Just Call Me “Or Something”), to Frank Gaffney of the Center For Security Policy  — and apparently of the Family Research Council (FRC) as well — I am the answer to the question “What’s wrong with this picture?” From the FRC’s November 30, 2010 DADT press conference (at about the 33-minute mark of the press conference video):

But I just want to throw up a slide here that we talked about in the abstract as an indication of the kind of modalities that were going to be a problem for the United States Military if the repeal were undertaken.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Thumbnail Link: Photo captioned by Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center For Security Policy, at the Family Research Council's (FRC's) November 30, 2010 Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) press conference. Photo caption refers to Autumn Sandeen being transgender. Comment is made at about the 33-minute mark in the video of the press conference.

These are, of course, five individuals — six individuals, excuse me — who have now professed themselves to be homosexual…or something…who chained themselves to the fence of the White House in order to call attention to what they consider the great injustice of them not being allowed under the law to serve in the United States Armed Forces openly.

What’s wrong with this picture is that the individual on the far left, who goes by the name Autumn Sandeen, is a transgender individual. Now apparently transgender individuals are not to be considered as part of the group that will be admitted into the military if this repeal this repeal  takes place, at least not initially, but anyone who is following the LGBT activists knows that T stands for transgender. Transgender is part of the community whose equal rights are supposed to be established, among other things, by imposing on the United States Military this Radical Homosexual Agenda.

Think about — now we’ve just heard from these distinguished military officers and NCOs — what challenges they’ve confronted already, and what challenges would be confronted with someone whose physical characteristics are clear, but whose sexual preferences are for the same sex? What do you do with individuals whose physical characteristics are — well uncertain, to say the least — and whose sexual preferences maybe unclear as well. It’s a vehicle — a formula — for a command nightmare.

So I simply want to just offer this with no criticism of any of these individuals, or their lives as civilians or their choices. It’s up to them. This is about breaking the United States Military.

Let’s be clear here. Referring to me as an “or something,” and referring to me as what’s wrong with the picture of six lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community military veterans handcuffed to the White House Fence, is a direct criticism of me, and it is a broader direct criticism of trans servicemembers and trans veterans.

And the strange thing here is that my reasons for participating in the DADT direct actions with GetEQUAL are easily known, and my reasons weren’t to establish, among other things, by imposition on the United States Military a Radical Homosexual Agenda™.

And too, despite the claim by Frank Gaffney, the president of the Center For Security Policy, repeal of DADT will not now, nor in the near future, result in transsexual servicemembers, transgender servicemembers, or servicemembers who identify as both transgender and transsexual, to serve openly as trans in the military services. To state what Frank Gaffney stated as truth, when he, his organization, Tony Perkins, and the FRC know what Gaffney said isn’t truth, appears to me to be stating a lie as truth to engage in fear-mongering of their religious, conservative, sociopolitical base.

From a National Center For Transgender Equality eblast, entitled Pentagon Releases Report in Favor of DADT Repeal, Transgender People Still Cannot Serve Openly:

The Pentagon today [November 30, 2010] released results of a nine-month-long study that concluded that the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy could be repealed with little impact on the military’s preparedness. Thumbnail link: NCTE's 'Pentagon Releases Report in Favor of DADT Repeal, Transgender People Still Cannot Serve Openly'The authors noted that many of the objections to service by openly gay men and lesbians were based on stereotypes, not facts, and that the majority of members of the armed forces had already knowingly served with lesbians and gay men without adverse effect.

Within the report’s Frequently Asked Questions section, the Department of Defense reiterated that a change in DADT would not permit transgender servicemembers to serve openly. Transgender people are currently considered medically disqualified for service and can face other roadblocks if they come out while serving. These policies have to change to allow transgender people to serve openly. Several  allies of the United States have already repealed similar policies in their own armed forces.

NCTE applauds the Department of Defense for recognizing the unfounded basis for discrimination against lesbian and gay servicemembers.  We call on the military to also take action to repeal the policies which bar transgender servicemembers from enlisting or serving openly.  Like the policies that currently limit service based on sexual orientation, the bans on service by transgender people are also based on stereotypes and a lack of accurate information. It is also important that the report recognizes that the creation of separate bathroom and sleeping facilities only exacerbates the problems of discrimination, by stigmatizing certain troops.

It is also important that transgender servicemembers recognize that, they will no longer run the risk of being falsely caught up in an investigation about their sexual orientation if DADT is repealed, but they still remain at significant risk for discharge if they reveal their gender identity. NCTE encourages all transgender servicemembers who have concerns or are considering coming out to contact the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network SLDN hotline to speak with a staff attorney: 202-328-3244 x100. Early this year, NCTE and SLDN released information for transgender servicemembers, which we urge you to consult.

The exact quote is from the Support Plan for Implementation; Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is on page 70, and is — as NCTE indicated — in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) of the report. The FAQ question and answer is as follows:

Can transgender or transsexual individuals join the Military Services?

No. Transgender and transsexual individuals are not permitted to join the Military Services. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has no effect on these policies.

[Below the fold: What NCTE and the SLDN indicates may happen when transgender servicemembers come out of the closet.]The National Center For Transgender Equality (NCTE) has addressed the impact of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in prior e-blast.Thumbnail Link: National Center For Transgender Equality (NCTE) eblast 'Attention Transgender Service Members: It is NOT Safe To Come Out As Transgender' Transsexual servicemembers, transgender servicemembers, as well as servicemembers who identify as both transgender and transsexual, should pay very close attention to what NCTE stated in that 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 [the Department Of Defense (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.


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 that NCTE e-blast that trans servicemembers should read if they’re thinking about coming out of the closet to their military services should DADT be ultimately repealed.

In addition to what NCTE stated in that eblast, 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.

Folk on the religious right, including Frank Gaffney of the Center For Security Policy, frequently have been engaging in fear-mongering of their sociopolitical base over an alleged secondary effect — that repealing DADT will either now, or in the near future, will allow trans servicemembers to serve openly. This is just not the case; repealing DADT won’t now, or in the near future, allow trans servicemembers to serve openly.

With that thought in mine, the advice that NCTE is giving to trans servicemembers needs to be paid attention to; the advice needs to be heeded.


Further Reading:

* All of the reports associated with the Pentagon’s DADT study are found here.



* NCTE Warns Transgender Servicemembers Regarding DADT And Coming Out Trans

* FRC’s DADT Press Conference: Just Call Me “Or Something”

* What About “Transvestite Clothing” In The Military?

* Again, I’m Here Near The Place I Was Last April


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