Transgender Military Service
Update: On 10 June 2011, the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a new directive regarding fair and equal treatment for transgender veterans. Click here to read the directive.
WHAT DOES “TRANSGENDER MILITARY SERVICE” MEAN?
- The word “transgender” is commonly considered an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term includes, but is not limited to, transsexuals, cross-dressers, gender-queer people, intersex people, and other gender-variant individuals.
- Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically.
- SLDN has urged the adoption of a policy that bars discrimination in the military on the basis of gender identity and is working to maximize the opportunities for military service for individuals who fall into the various communities under the transgender umbrella.
REGULATIONS BARRING TRANSGENDER SERVICE
- Currently, Department of Defense regulations bar transgender people from serving in the military based on physical and mental factors.
- DoDI 6130.03 is the DoD Instruction covering medical standards required for accession. This Instruction lists numerous disqualifying factors for service, including “history of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia, such as change of sex [and] hermaphroditism.” Under the mental standards in the same regulation, “current or history of psychosexual conditions, including but not limited to transsexualism [and] transvestism” is considered disqualifying.
- Citations in the medical Instruction refer to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, which defines “sexual and gender identity disorders.”
- Each military branch releases its own medical standards mirroring the DoD Instruction, which also mirror these disqualifiers.
- Waivers of the medical standards are possible, in particular when the condition will not preclude the satisfactory completion of training and military duty. However, SLDN is not aware of any waivers being granted to permit a transgender person to serve.
- In addition to medical regulations, conduct regulations can affect transgender service members. For example, cross-dressing and/or violating the binary male-female uniform system can result in punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Cross-dressing could violate UCMJ Article 133 (Conduct unbecoming) or Article 134 (General article; “To the prejudice of good order and discipline”).
TRANSGENDER MILITARY SERVICE ABROAD
- Currently, at least 10 countries permit transgender service in some form: Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.
- Some of these countries have regulations or formal policies regarding transgender service; others consider transgender applicants and service members on a case-by-case basis.
- The number of transgender veterans is not known. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, released in Feb. 2011 by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force, reported that 20% of 6,450 transgender survey respondents are veterans.
- Transgender veterans report disparities in healthcare access within the Veterans Administration system. Some have been able to access appropriate health exams and hormone treatment; others have reported denial of services and harassment.
- On 6/10/11, the VA released a new directive regarding care for transgender veterans. The new directive states that all VA staff must provide care to transgender patients “without discrimination in a manner consistent with care and management of all Veteran patients,” emphasizing equality in treatment. It also reiterates coverage for medically necessary healthcare for transgender veterans, such as sex-specific care like mammograms and pap smears, and transition-related care like hormones and mental health services. However, the VA is still prevented from performing or paying for sex reassignment surgery, in accordance with existing regulation.
WORKING TOWARD TRANSGENDER MILITARY SERVICE
- On 2/9/11, SLDN called on the President to issue an executive order for non-discrimination in the military based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A full version of this letter can be found at http://www.sldn.org/ExecOrderLetter.
- Much education remains to be done both in the American public and in the DoD regarding the transgender community and transgender military service.
- Changes to the military medical regulations would come through the DoD.
- Relationships between transgender organizations, medical associations, and military allies will be crucial for advancing this issue.
TRANSGENDER SERVICE AND “DON’T ASK, DON’T TELL”
- DADT regulates military service by lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and does not address service by transgender individuals. Therefore, the repeal of DADT will not directly address transgender service either.
- However, DADT adversely affects many communities, including transgender people. Gender non-conforming service members have been perceived as lesbian or gay and harmed by DADT as a result.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
- SLDN’s free legal services have included transgender service members since the organization’s inception. SLDN is also here to serve as a resource on advancing transgender military service.
Click here to view the 7/12/10 joint release between SLDN and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) regarding transgender servicemembers.