U.S. Military Takes the ‘T’ Out of LGBT Acceptance

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is dead, but discrimination against transgender soldiers is alive and absolute in Uncle Sam’s armed forces.

Members of San Diego’s gay and lesbian community celebrate the expiration of U.S. military policy “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” on September 20, 2011. Almost two years later, the repeal has not extended to transgender military personnel. (Photo: Mike Blake/Reuters)

Jul 24, 2013
Allan MacDonell is TakePart’s News + Opinion editor, with a focus on social justice.

The military has made strides toward embracing LGBT personnel in the wake of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, so long as those LGBT personnel are not openly transgender.

By the time Congress voted to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010, even former president Bill Clinton, the chief executive who signed DADT into law in 1993, had publicly condemned the U.S. military’s policy of expecting LGBT service members to cower under a veneer of presumed heterosexuality as someone else’s idea.

“Keep in mind,” Clinton told CBS News’s Katie Couric, “I didn’t choose this policy.”

Like Clinton, current transgender members of the United States armed forces did not choose to serve under a policy that dictates automatic medical disqualification for any troops transitioning to their non-birth sex.

One secretly T service member summed up the frustrating and illogical reality to USA Today:

“I was at the Pentagon when Secretary Hagel was saying we’re here to celebrate LGBT service,” says a transgender Army sergeant who joined the Army as a woman. The sergeant spoke on condition of anonymity to stay in the service.

“I’m kind of looking around for the rest of Ts,” the soldier says, referring to transgender troops. Other troops could celebrate marriage equality, the sergeant says, but not the transsexuals.

Kristin Beck, author of Warrior Princess: A U.S. Navy SEAL’s Journey to Coming Out Transgender, served for 20 years in the Navy as a male—Chris Beck. The publication of Warrior Princess has heightened awareness of the plight of the military’s transgender personnel.

Transgender soldiers are, in effect, forced to serve under the identical “keep your gender identity to yourself” provisions that were ultimately deemed unacceptable in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Beck acknowledged to USA Today “that the transition involves ‘a lot of changes’ physically and emotionally that would make it difficult to serve.”

Nevertheless, insists the retired SEAL, transgender troops are a cohort that the Pentagon needs to include, and that inclusion “needs to be well thought out.”

The military brasses of Great Britain, Israel and Canada have all taken the time to consider well, and have incorporated the contributions of transgender personnel into their armed forces. When will the world’s leading democracy catch up?

So think about it: What attributes should be taken into account when deciding whether or not transgender individuals qualify to serve in the American military? State those prerequisites in COMMENTS.

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