As advocates across the country commemorate the one year anniversary of the repeal of the military’s discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, it is important to remember that many servicemembers still cannot serve openly.
Transgender Americans in the Armed Forces continue to be discriminated against and discharged just for being who they are based on an antiquated medical regulatory ban. After being discharged, many transgender veterans encounter issues accessing benefits due to restrictions around changing identification forms. OutServe, an organization serving as a resource for LGBT servicemembers, counts more than 6000 actively serving military personnel who identify as transgender, but must hide their identity every day.
Zeke Stokes of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which offers legal services to LGBT military personnel, spoke to Metro Weekly about the remaining challenges for transgender servicemembers after the DADT repeal. He said:
''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. But it's not something that's going to happen quickly.”
In an article from The Advocate profiling transgender servicemembers, former U.S. Navy petty officer and transgender man Toni Blessing spoke about leaving the military despite his commanding officer’s acclaim for his stellar service record. Blessing said, “I told him I’m transgender, and unfortunately the military sees that as a problem. I need to live my life as who I am, and I can’t be me and be in the Navy.”
GLAAD urges the media to share the stories of transgender servicemembers who are still forced to serve their country in silence, and of those who are barred from service because of who they are. Educating the public about the inequality these soldiers experience is a step toward ensuring that transgender people can serve openly and receive the same respect afforded to their peers.