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TransAmerica: Serving a Country that Doesn’t Want Their Service

One hallmark of the United States military is the way it treats individuality. In some contexts, being called “an individual” in the ranks is a derision, because the military takes “people” and turns them into “soldiers;*” that they are simply a part of a larger whole. It is this thinking that made a policy like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a workable solution in the military of the mid-1990s, because individual things (like sexual preference) didn’t matter to the unit. You do your job, watch your buddy’s back, and drive on.

Yet, as societal understanding about homosexuality fell more in line with reality, the DADT policy was seen for the oppressive system it was. While individuality was scorned, a soldier’s right to think, feel, and BE whomever he or she wanted to be was not in question. Since the repeal of DADT, however, one segment of the LGBT community has been disregarded.

Former U.S. Navy Seal Kristin Beck said during a panel discussion at the Library of Congress, “I’m the ‘T.’ I’m the left-out piece.” A newly-released study estimates that there are more than 15,000 transgender servicemembers who live in the closet and nearly 135,000 transgender veterans. Yet, official military policy still classifies the trans condition as “paraphilia,” a mental, sexual disorder.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel remained noncommittal on the issue, suggesting displeasure with the current policy but not outright calling for it to change. Still a commission report released in March said that the current policy is “not based on sound medical reasoning.”

What seems to be at the core of the debate is not (as the ignorant might put it) “men wanting to wear women’s clothes and vice versa,” because the female military uniform – outside of “formal” attire – is practically identical to the male uniform. It is that the military does not provide transgender medical care, specifically hormone replacement therapy.

While there are some lingering questions on the treatment provided to transgender persons – specifically with gender reassignment surgery – there is little doubt the no treatment at all is far more dangerous than other option. Trans servicemembers are no different than others in our all-volunteer force, except maybe in that they signed up to serve knowing that the service wasn’t too keen on their kind. That is a special kind of courage.
Photo via Equality in Maryland Tumblr

*Or Marines, sailors, or airmen.

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.