In its latest issue, OutServe Magazine, a bi-monthly publication highlighting issues of importance to LGBT servicemembers in the U.S. Armed Forces, shares the stories of transgender military professionals as they navigate the incredible hardships of living closeted lives to maintain their careers. Though the repeal of the discriminatory so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy allows lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to serve openly in the military, it makes no changes to the extant military policy on transgender people. As of now, transgender servicemembers may still be discharged on the basis of their gender identity and expression. In the OutServe article, authored by former West Point cadet Katie Miller who resigned in protest of DADT, transgender service members spoke about the conflicts they face, such as that between their love for their work and their need to live authentically.
Bryan, a 20-year-old transgender MP who was featured in the article, elaborated on his story with Metro Weekly, saying, "As it stands today, if my contract ended today, I wouldn't re-enlist. Not because I don't love the military, not because I don't want to serve my country, because I do. But because, at the same time, I want to be who I am, I want to fully transition, like, live my life.'' The policies preventing openly transgender people from serving are not written into federal law, as DADT was, but they still present a significant challenge and will likely require a great shift in attitudes towards the transgender community as a whole before they are changed. According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), a non-profit organization assisting those military personnel affected by DADT, only ten countries currently allow some degree of transgender military service, including the UK.
In 2011 when the DADT repeal process began, Bryan interned with SLDN, where he recalls, "It was hard for me, personally, because I knew I still couldn't serve openly, but it was really rewarding being on the team, being a part of the process.” Autumn Sandeen, a transgender blogger and veteran of the U.S. Navy, commented on the work that needs to be done toward changing military policy, saying, “Telling our stores now and collecting them is one of the first steps transgender people have to take. With OutServe telling these stories, now transgender people will be able to start finding each other and start talking to each other. Having an organization that is raising awareness of the issue is extremely important.”
The media did a good job during the discussion over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” sharing the voices of gay and bisexual servicemembers, showing audiences that the law was discriminatory, and eventually paving the way for the vast majority of Americans to support open service, which led to the law’s repeal. But there are more stories to be told, and more proud, capable individuals who still are being prevented from serving their country openly and honestly.
GLAAD applauds OutServe Magazine, Metro Weekly, and the transgender servicemembers interviewed for sharing their stories and helping to raise awareness of the specific challenges they face. We now call on the rest of the media to tell their stories accurately and inclusively as well. You can read the original article and more from the latest issue of OutServe Magazine here.