The Pentagon Recognizes Transgender Service Member

Blogger and LGBT advocate Autumn Sandeen has become the first transgender service member to publicly have her gender marker changed on all military documents. 

For the first time, the Pentagon has recognized a transgender service member by updating its records to reflect her gender identity.. There are transgender people currently serving in the military, although they are rare. Sandeen feels that the Pentagon's actions show there are officials in the Department of Defense who do recognize the needs of transgender service members. Sitting down for an interview with GLAAD, Sandeen expressed that although the military at its current state today is far from transgender inclusion due to "bathroom bill stuff" and other issues, there are transgender servicemembers who are actively and successfully serving today.

Although appreciative of the Pentagon's progressive steps, Sandeen says she will now push for gender markers to be changed on "Historical documents including the DD-Form-214- the certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty."

"I would say that it is a very early and very small step in a long process to achieve our goals here," OutServe-SLDN executive director Allyson Robinson told Buzzfeed, "but, it is significant, as the earliest steps always are, because it reflects a shift, even if it is a small one, in the way that transgender people are viewed within the institution of the United States military." 

In 2010 the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” gave LGB military service members the right to serve their country openly, but did not grant the same right to transgender military members. According to guidelines set forth by the military, transgender persons cannot be admitted or discharged due to medical regulations and conduct regulations.

-Even if the candidate has not had surgery but openly identifies as transgender, the military considers this to be a disqualifying psychiatric condition, labeling “transsexualism” and “transvestism” as “psychosexual conditions.”

-The military medical system does not recognize the World Professional Association for Transgender Health's Standards of Care for Gender Identity Disorders and will not provide transition-related medical care. 

- Wearing clothing the military does not consider gender-appropriate is considered “cross-dressing” by the military and is generally addressed in regulations governing conduct.

-Transgender persons in the inactive reserve who are in the process of transitioning may be confronted with the need to halt this process if they are recalled. Recall to active duty places them directly under the regulatory requirements discussed above. Therefore, these service members may need to consider ceasing or interrupting their transition while they complete their active service requirement. Alternatively, transitioning or post-transitioning reservists may be medically disqualified for continued service once they are called back to active duty and medically examined.

Transgender people based on the above guidelines set forth by the military are systemically discriminated against. Sandeen says the Pentagon's actions are a symbolic event that will encourage thousands of other transgender servicemembers and veterans to seek to update their military documents and identification cards. Although open transgender service by military law is forbidden, many feel that inclusion in the military is inevitable, and would only benefit our nation's security, as it would allow the best and brightest to serve, regardless of gender identity.

Katy Butler, GLAAD Campaigns Intern, contributed to this story.

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