No Military Welcome for Transgender Americans
The repeal of ’’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ ushered in a new era of acceptance in the armed forces for thousands of Americans. For almost two decades, the ban on out gay servicemembers was an issue fueling the LGBT-rights movement. With President Barack Obama’s signature - following a Pentagon working group, surveys, and approval from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense - the ban became a thing of the past.
But for some members of the military, the fight for acceptance is long from over. Although 2011’s repeal of ’’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’’ opened the door for gay, lesbian and bisexual servicemembers, transgender Americans must continue life in the closet in order to serve their country.
Despite the repeal of DADT, a medical regulatory ban remains in place for those who identity as transgender. Not only is evidence of transition therapy grounds for disqualification for potential recruits, so is openly identifying as transgender, which the Pentagon considers a psychiatric condition.
Transgender veterans who transition after leaving the armed forces face other obstacles as well. Upon discharge from the military, servicemembers receive a DD-214 form with their full name. Some transgender veterans who seek to change the name on the form, which is used to secure veteran benefits, are not always able to do so.
The Department of Veterans Affairs issued a directive in June 2011 providing health care for some transgender medical needs, such as hormone treatments, but the VA does not provide sex-reassignment surgery.
’’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,’’ Zeke Stokes, communications director for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, told Metro Weekly. ’’But it’s not something that’s going to happen quickly.’’