26 January 2015

When, Not If, Will We See Open Transgender Military Service?

On November 23, 2014, the Palm Center released a statement entitled "Military Services Have Failed To Comply With New Defense Department Rules On Transgender Personnel.

This followed a report from last March where former Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders led a group that concluded there were no sound medical reasons why transgender people couldn't serve in the military services. It also followed an August report outlining a blueprint for how transgender people can be integrated into the military services - integrated much in the same way as 18 of our allies have already accomplished within their military services.

Military Times covered release of this latest report by the Palm Center. "A change to a Pentagon personnel policy three months ago loosens the rules barring transgender troops from serving in the U.S. military," stated the Army and Navy Times in their article entitled Report: Loophole could allow transgender troops to serve under new DoD policy, "giving the individual services leeway to retain these personnel." The article further stated, "The update -- to Defense Department Instruction 1332.18, Disability Evaluation System -- provides a loophole for the services to let transgender troops serve instead of requiring administrative separation, the Palm Center says."

The same socially conservative religious organizations that argued against repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) such as the Center for Military Readiness, the Center for Security Policy, and the Family Research Council, are using almost identical arguments. In the end, those arguments didn't work and DADT was repealed.

DADT was a federal law passed in 1993 that barred lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) service members from serving openly in the military services, and the law needed repeal before LGB service members could serve openly in recent years. All that bars transgender people from serving openly now is the DoD and individual service regulations. And, it appears that the overarching DoD regulation was weakened last August so that the four DoD military services could change their rules now to allow open transgender service.

The military didn't implode when LGB service members could serve openly in the American military services; the military won't implode if – or when - transgender service members can serve openly in the American military services. Honestly, does anybody currently serving in the military, who has given more than a moment's thought to this, really believe there won't come a point in the next five years or so where transgender service members are serving openly? I think most people who've put some thought into this know that it's not a question of whether America will have openly transgender service members at some point, but rather a question of when we'll have it. 

So with that in mind, do you agree it's a question of "when" and not "if"? And if you agree it's a "when," how soon do you believe we'll see open transgender military service?

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

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