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The Issue Of Trans Military Service In The News

A couple of weeks ago there was a story in the press about a trans servicemember being discharged from the Army National Guard specifically for being transgender. From Louisville’s WPFL article, entitled Fairness Campaign Spotlights Discharge of Transgender Soldier:

…Staff Sergeant Rebecca Grant was discharged from the Army National Guard after serving for over a decade. She did tours of duty overseas, including Bosnia and Iraq.

In 2009, a fellow soldier revealed that Grant is transgender, and she was officially kicked out of the military two weeks before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this month.

Grant says getting rid of the policy was a step in the right direction for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members, but that transgender individuals are still unprotected

“With education this could change, people being informed on the different issues, not being closed-minded, not being ultra-conservative. Allowing us to have the rights that we should have had as a United State citizen, we need change,” she says.

Currently eight countries allied with the United States, including Great Britain, Israel and the Czech Republic allow transgender citizens to serve openly in their armed forces…

And Monica Helms, the president of the Transgender American Veterans Association, was recently was quoted in Creative Loafing about transgender military service. From the article The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has left unfinished work:

…Those problems [of lesbian, gay, and bisexual servicemembers impacted by the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)] might seem like easy lifts compared to the changes pursued by Monica Helms. A Navy vet who served on submarines in the ’70s, Helms transitioned from man to woman in the late ’90s. As head of the Atlanta-based Transgendered American Veterans Association, Helms lobbies for transgendered persons to be able to serve openly in the military, a policy that was unaffected by the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

As you might expect, Helms’ cause has met with resistance and derision in some quarters.

“People who’ve never served in the military are running around saying guys will be wearing heels into battle,” she says.

Helms uses a broader definition of “transgendered” than most folks might be accustomed to, including not simply people who’ve undergone sex-reassignment surgery or hormone therapy, but anyone who self-identifies as the other gender.

“If a male soldier is presenting as a woman off-duty and off-base, and someone turns him in, he can be kicked out of the service,” Helms explains…

On September 20th, 2011 — the first day lesbian, gay, bisexual servicemembers could legally serve openly — many of the celebrations of the functional repeal date of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy highlighted that trans people, with the repeal of DADT, still can’t serve openly.

Transgender issues shouldn’t have been directly coupled to the DADT repeal because that policy, set forth in federal law, specifically dealt with only with sexual orientation. Trans people aren’t allowed to serve at this point only due to military regulations (DODI 6130.03, April 28, 2010, incorporating Change 1, September 13, 2011). Form the Department of Defense Instruction (DODI):

Current or history of psychosexual conditions (302), including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias.

The “(302)” in DOD Instruction 6130.03, paragraph 29.r. above refers to section 302 of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM).

If trans people are to serve openly in the military services in the future, there is much work to be done…much groundwork to be laid. In the meantime, soldiers like Staff Sergeant Rebecca Grant are going to continue to be discharged specifically for being trans. The question at this point is who is going to do the real work that’s needed to be done for trans people to be able to serve openly.

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Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen

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