The Washington Post features the story of Landon Wilson, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. military because he is transgender. Wilson was considered a rising star in his critical and highly technical field, yet a discrepancy of gender markers in his records led to questioning by his superiors and the ultimatum to either transition or serve.
More than two years after the repeal of the law that barred gay men and lesbians from serving in the military openly, transgender service members can still be dismissed from the force without question, the result of a decades-old policy that dates back to an era when gender nonconformity was widely seen as a mental illness.
The policy, however, is now coming under scrutiny as service members like Wilson become more visible. Transgender service members are increasingly undergoing procedures to align their bodies more closely with the genders with which they identify. Medical experts, meanwhile, are urging the Defense Department to rescind a policy they view as discriminatory and outdated, noting that some of America’s closest allies, including Canada, Britain and Australia, have done so seamlessly.
Although the American Psychiatric Association revised its manual last year to indicate gender nonconformity is “not in itself a mental disorder,” the Defense Department relies on guidelines that describe transgender individuals as sexual deviants, and their condition as a “paraphilia.” Thousands of transgender men and women are now serving in the military while remaining in the closet, according to studies.