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DADT repeal efforts ignore transgender service members and veterans

Justin Tanis [Community Education and Outreach Manager, National Center for Transgender Equality]: "The military's discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy applies only to the sexual orientation of servicemembers and has no direct application to transgender people. However, transgender people have been impacted by the regulations and discharged under the policy when investigators assume that gender non-conforming clothing or behavior signifies a lesbian or gay sexual orientation.

The US Military continues to discriminate against transgender people, barring them from enlisting and discharging them if they are serving. In a 2009 study of 6,450 transgender people ("National Transgender Discrimination Survey," conducted by The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality; published results pending), 20% of the sample reporting having served in the military, at a rate twice [PDF] that of the general population, with an additional 2% reporting having been denied entry into military service. Of those in our sample who did serve, 9% were discharged because of their gender identity or expression.

Transgender people can be discharged under military policy as medically unfit if they have been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder or if they have had genital surgery [PDF]. There are also military regulations that consider gender non-conformity as "conduct unbecoming" or "conduct prejudicial to good order or discipline." Wardrobe considered "cross-dressing" can also be considered a violation of uniform policies; this has been applied to servicemembers' dress on or off base.

The military's medical services exclude transition-related care and require that servicemembers report treatment by civilian doctors; if a transgender person accesses transition-related medical care, they must either report that treatment - thus outing themselves as transgender to military authorities - or risk discharge or discipline for failing to report the treatment. Either way, the policy prevents transgender people from getting needed medical care appropriate to their gender identity.

Many transgender people wish to openly serve their country through military service, as do many gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Being able to serve in the military is one of the ways in which Americans choose to serve and protect their country; banning people from doing so simply because of prejudice based on gender identity or sexual orientation is just plain wrong."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

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