how cool is the american military with trans people enlisting? with or without transition surgery?
Can’t think of a better day to post this than on the Transgender Day of Visibility. I’m not apologizing for the political leaning in this post either.
Up until very recently, not very cool at all. It used to be an automatic DQ from enlisting because it was considered a mental illness. Which is weird because even though you couldn’t be trans while serving, you could receive HRT and such from the VA after being discharged. So, like…I dunno what the disconnect was there.
However, the military is now open to transgender service members as of July 2015, although at this point in time they only acknowledge binary genders.
You can read the DoD Commander’s Handbook for Transgender Policy Implementation here. It makes clear that members are treated like and held to the standard of their gender and that allowing service members to transition is a medical necessity. It also makes clear that discrimination of trans soldiers is unacceptable and grounds for an EO (equal opportunity) complaint. It’s not…perfect, (they use “preferred gender” constantly and only acknowledge the soldier’s gender when their marker is officially changed) but it’s a start. As far as I know the army only covers HRT and cosmetic surgeries like facial hair removal, not bottom surgery.
Presently, the military is only focusing on service members who are currently enlisted. Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King is considered the first open transgender soldier, and she’s had an outstanding service record with numerous awards. Her chain of command was supportive when she came out to them, even though she came out before the official decision to allow transgender soldiers.
As for the future, the timeline of implementing trans service members actually annotated that they would begin accepting transgender recruits this July, so we’ll see how that goes.
If you want a character in your story to be transgender and serving, they would probably either have to be
1) Serving after July 1st 2017, when all cards are down and trans people in the military are officially “a thing.”
2) Out after 2014, when the federal government made it much, much harder to discharge a service member just for being transgender.
It goes without saying that there has been no shortage of backlash for this decision. They call this a decision a “civil rights ploy” and that it results in a “weaker, compromised military,” despite the thousands of closeted soldiers already serving. I got out before the decision was made so I can’t speak firsthand about the current climate, but I’m willing to place a pretty sizable bet that a lot of the soldiers in the army weren’t thrilled either. Transphobic jokes were not remotely in short supply in my old unit.
Still, commanders have been implementing these policies and soldiers are now having classes teaching them about trans issues, and medical providers are also receiving classes for their transgender patients, so again, it’s a start. There’s even guidelines about what kind of language is acceptable to use.
We’re not out of the weeds yet, however. Politicians continue to demand that the policies are reversed, now more than ever since that the power has shifted, so it’s important to continue making your voice heard. Be vocal about allowing transgender service members to join and serve safely, especially if you or someone you know is a veteran. The opposition claims that service members aren’t fighting this change because they feel like their hands are tied by an oppressive system, and people need to know that service members aren’t fighting this change because they support the change. If you can, write letters (handwritten letters if possible; you’d be surprised the effect that has) to your representatives, your Senators, governors. Let them know that you support lifting the ban, or at the very least that you’re not opposed to it.
Just remember that this is nothing new. The same people kick up the same dust every time the military decides to be less discriminatory, whether that includes allowing POC to serve, (somehow we’re still arguing whether to allow Muslims) allowing women to serve, (and women were only just allowed to apply for combat MOSs last year, and make no mistake there’s still debate about that) allowing LGB people to serve, (still debate, no mistake) and now allowing binary transgender people to serve. Every time the military cracks its door open a little bit, the country thinks it’s going to simply fall apart.
So far it hasn’t. Army of One, yo. My army is your army.