The DADT policy that was in effect from 1993 to (hopefully) sometime in very early 2011 only addressed the military service of lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers. Transgender people’s service in the military wasn’t addressed in this DADT repeal legislation — and my take on the DADT repeal legislation is that transgender people’s service shouldn’t have been addressed in it.
And why would that be? Well, the reason is that there is no federal law on the books that bars transgender people from serving in the military.
Transgender servicemembers are in the same place that lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers were in 1992 (before DADT became law) — transgender people are now only barred from military service by regulation, and not barred by federal law. President Obama could sign a memorandum tomorrow that would allow transgender people to serve openly.
But, the president won’t. Frankly, the politics are not there for repeal because the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community hasn’t laid the groundwork for open service for transgender servicemembers.
If the LGBT community believes transgender people should also be able to serve openly — as I know many do believe — then we in community must lay the groundwork for that happen.
What might that groundwork look like?
Well, we’d need to address the specific accommodation issues specific to transgender servicemembers, such as berthing in barracks and on ships, as well as in showers — the kind of accommodation issues that really don’t apply to lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers. That’s because non-transgender lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers have genitalia that match their gender identities, but often transgender servicemembers do not have genitalia that matches their gender identities.
That said, there are near immediate areas regarding service of transgender people that the President could address by presidential prerogative prior to addressing full, open service of transgender servicemembers. Such as:
The President could very much in the near term address the character discharge that transgender servicemembers often receive at discharge. Right now, transgender people are subject to discharges that aren’t Honorable Discharges for being transgender. Those discharges — as spelled out in the old Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s (SLDN’s) Survival Guide — include General Discharges under both honorable and dishonorable conditions. The Reenlistment Eligibility Codes/Reason for Separation Codes assigned to DD- 214 that can be used regarding Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and other conditions that fall under the transgender umbrella may indicate that the servicemember is being discharged for a “personality disorder” — the same sort of coding that are usually given to pedophiles.
The President could, by Presidential Perogotive, change regulations to allow the open military service of post-operative transsexual people — which at this time isn’t allowed. Allowing transsexual servicemembers who’ve had full genital reconstruction surgeries wouldn’t require special accommodation for berthing areas or showers, and therefore should be allowed.
To have regulatory changes such as these occur, the transgender subcommunity of the LGBT community will need to work with allies both within and without the LGBT community. A significant number of transgender community members would have to join in common purpose, and fight for changes that would benefit transgender servicemembers. Transgender community members, and their LGBT intra-community and extra-community allies, would need to work a smart insider game. If that alone didn’t create the desired changes, then perhaps later the effort would require both a smart insider and a smart outsider game to effect desired changes in federal regulation.
And too, the President and lobbyists would have to sell military leadership on the idea of transgender service — much as lobbyists had to get military leadership to by into the policy change for lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers.
Transgender community members would need to commit time, money, and other resources to the effort — in significant amounts — for a sustained period of time. I have no doubt that changing service policy for transgender servicemembers would be a long slog — Remember, there were 17-years between DADT being passed into law and that law’s repeal.
However, we are the LGBT community. We’re used to long fights, and used to winning our battles over time with sustained effort.
If transgender people are ever going to be allowed to serve openly, it will take work.
And, this isn’t the only issue we have for the transgender community on the national front. We still need to pass a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) into law, and we need to have the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA) repealed.
It appears we have a number of years more of sustained effort on multiple community issues if our national community goals are to be accomplished.
Are our LGBT community members — especially the T portion of the LGBT community — preparing ourselves for the long slogs of sustained effort ahead?
This isn’t the time to be an armchair activist if we want to see movement on our community’s freedom, equality, and justice issues.
* While U.S. Fumbles On DADT, Australia & Canada Accommodate Trans Servicemembers
* What Would The Repeal Of DADT Mean For Transgender Servicemembers?
* 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?