WASHINGTON — As the military begins to embrace gays and lesbians, one group feels left out: transgender troops.
These men and women weren't even a blip on the nation's radar until former Navy SEAL Team 6 member Chris Beck revealed in a memoir released last month that he had become Kristin Beck, a woman.
It's unknown how many transgender troops are serving in the U.S. military, largely because they would get kicked out for coming out. About 700,000 Americans in a population of more than 300 million are transsexuals, according to a 2011 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Another milestone in June: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel seemed to sanction their service when he addressed a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride (LGBT) event at the Pentagon. But there was a catch: civilians can switch sexes and keep their defense jobs. Troops can't. Unlike allies Great Britain, Israel and Canada, the U.S. military disqualifies transgender troops for health reasons.