Daily Kos, USA
Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 04:00 PM PDT
Unfit to Serve
by rserven <http://www.dailykos.com/user/rserven> for TransAction
With the anniversary of the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell just
passed, questions are arising over the military's continued stance
that transgender people are unfit to serve.
The Advocate <http://www.advocate.com/politics/military/2012/09/19/meet-silent-sold...>
tracked down some current and recent transpeople who are serving or
have just finished serving.
In the interest of full disclosure, this author must admit to serving
in the US Army during the Vietnam Era (1971-1973). She did not serve
oversees , but rather was stationed at the United States Disciplinary
Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, KS, where she was a correctional
specialist who rose to the pay grade of E5 (Spec-5, which is
equivalent to sergeant). She separated with an Honorable Discharge
and a Presidential Commendation.
This was all around two decades before she transitioned.
The Advocate's article features looks at Toni Blessing, who served 8
years as a petty officer in the US Navy from 1996 to 2004 and Brynn
Tannehill, a former Navy lieutenant-commander, plus some personnel
currently serving who cannot reveal their full identities if they wish
to continue to serve.
Blessing's fellow crewmen called him "the ideal sailor". Blessing's
service record is reported to be above reproach. When Blessing was
having his exit interview, his commanding officer asked him for an
explanation for why he was getting out.
I told him Iím transgender, and unfortunately the military sees
that as a problem. I need to live my life as who I am, and I canít be
me and be in the Navy.
Gay and lesbian (and bisexual) Americans are now allowed to serve
openly in the United States Military. Transgender Americans serve in
secret. But make no dobt about it, we do serve.
Andy is a US Army major and a transman who is in the Active Guard
Reserves. Because of the current policy, he is forced...
Öto work so hard to have to be female, and it would be much easier
to be who I am, and be a guy.
Andy goes on:
I think thereís more of a turning of a blind eye. Because people
kind of just identify you as a butch lesbian, or just an effeminate
man thatís gay. Itís OK to be gay [since DADT was repealed], so itís
easier to blend in.
Jennifer, a transwoman and an Army Sergeant serving in the
Southeastern part of the country, sees a bit different reality.
Iíd like to say that thereíve been more positive [attitudes]
toward any aspect of feminine-based personality traits [since DADT
repeal]. But when it comes to the military, itís still very much a
hypermasculine, macho-based ideology.
Blessing was out to several fellow sailors and began taking
testosterone before his separation. His Navy buddies helped teach him
how to shave.
Sharing the transgender secret with anyone in the military is not
recommended however. There are resources, such as the Servicemembers
Legal Defense Network and Outserve. Outserve currently hosts a
secretive group of transgender members, totally over 70, which is
about 1% of the Outserve membership.
Most would prefer to be open about who they are.
I would be able to perform my job much better, without holding
back anything. Thereís no question about running away, or escaping,
or trying to find an easy way out. Itís simply wanting to be myself,
while continuing to serve and be the best that I can be where Iím at.
Brynn Tannehill found a way to continue what she was doing, but it is
not for everyone. After separating and before she began working as a
defense contractor, she transitioned. Her civilian leadership and the
uniformed officers she works with are aware of her trans identity.
The team that I work with, itís an open secret that Iím trans.
And it hasnít been an issue for as long as Iíve been here. It hasnít
come up at all, and [even when] the Department of Defense leadership
was here, it has not come into play, that I can tell, so far in the
six months that Iíve been here.
Brynn blogs for Outserve and writes for Outserve magazine.
The Department of Defense instructions regarding medical standards
list several trans-related procedures as disqualifying acts. Section
6130.03 mentions ďhistory of major abnormalities or defects of the
genitalia, such as change of sex [and] hermaphroditism.Ē The same
regulations also reference disqualifying mental health conditions,
including ďcurrent or history of psychosexual conditions, including
but not limited to transsexualism [and] transvestism.Ē The regulations
also forbid service by those with ďsexual and gender identity
disorders,Ē as defined in the American Psychiatric Associationís
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
Previous drafts of the DSM categorized transgender identity as
ďgender identity disorder,Ē though that language will be revised in
the DSM-V, slated for publication in Spring 2013. The revised manual
will refer to transgender identities as ďgender dysphoria,Ē removing
the pathologizing language referring to a ďdisorder.Ē
Realistically we can expect a long wait before the military catches up
with medical understanding. The military considered homosexuality a
mental illness until 2009.
Transitioning after separation also has its problems, Upon discharge
from the service, one receives a DD-214 form with one's full name.
Accessing veterans benefits requires the form. But getting the name
changed on the form has proven to be quite difficult.
There's a lot of education that needs to be done among the public
about what it means to be a transgender American, which SLDN along
with our allies are working on. But it's not something that's going
to happen quickly.
--Zeke Stokes <http://www.metroweekly.com/feature/?ak=7758> ,
communications director for the SLDN
Stokes cites the makeup of the Congress in claiming that nothing
currently can be done. But this is not in the court of the Congress.
That body is not why we cannot serve. We can't serve because of
military regulations, which do not depend upon Congress.
Stokes is correct in the fact that securing rights for transgender
servicemembers has not been the call to arms that ending DADT was.
Here's Leon Panetta, thanking gay and lesbian servicemembers for their service.
[Video: <http://youtu.be/7mWb9HteGE0> Defense Secretary Thanks Lesbian
and Gay Service Members]
Notice that transgender was not mentioned. One can only opine that
Panetta does not believe that transpeople deserve the dignity and
respect that he mentioned. And that "everyone" does not include us.
Although Panetta said he remains "committed to removing as many
barriers as possible to make America's military a model of equal
opportunity," there are no plans in the foreseeable future to alter
military medical regulations to allow transgender Americans to serve
their country openly.
Transgender Americans in the Armed Forces continue to be
discriminated against and discharged just for being who they are based
on an antiquated medical regulatory ban. After being discharged, many
transgender veterans encounter issues accessing benefits due to
restrictions around changing identification forms. OutServe, an
organization serving as a resource for LGBT servicemembers, counts
more than 6000 actively serving military personnel who identify as
transgender, but must hide their identity every day.
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