Pentagon Says Yes to Homosexuals, Lesbians, and Bisexuals; No to Transgenders

AFP/Getty
AFP/Getty

The end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell let gays, lesbians, and bisexuals serve openly in the military. But transgender individuals remain excluded. A conference Monday examined that policy.

Three years after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the “T” in LGBT seems to have been left behind in military policy. Unlike gays, lesbians and bisexuals, openly transgender individuals can be kicked out of the military if their true identity becomes known.

But any possible doubt about the suitability of transgender individuals for military service wouldn’t survive a meeting with Kristin Beck.

Beck spent 20 years in military special operations, enduring 13 deployments and earning a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and a SEAL Trident. She worked with SEAL Team Six and retired with the rank of senior chief.

She’s also a transgender veteran who transitioned after she left military service.

“I was in the middle of the toughest of the tough as a Navy SEAL. And I could still do that today, as a female,” she said Monday, speaking deliberately and stirringly. “Females are strong. Females chew tobacco and smoke cigars. They lift weights.”

She let a moment of silence slip by. “I still have the ability to kick ass.”

There’s no doubt on that point. When she was done speaking at the Perspectives on Transgender Military Service From Around the Globe conference, hosted by the ACLU and the Palm Center, there was absolute silence.

Featuring transgender service members from all over the world, Monday’s conference examined the Pentagon’s policy of excluding openly transgender individuals from serving in the military and highlighted the experiences of transgender troops from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden.

Earlier this year, a study written by a former U.S. surgeon general and a retired admiral estimated that some 14,450 transgender personnel are actively serving in the U.S. military.

These people, Beck said, are “serving in silence, serving in their own personal anguish, their own personal pain.”

Unlike Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the prohibition on openly transgender service members is a Pentagon policy rather than a law. But Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell also prohibited senior officers from questioning the sexual orientation of those under their command. There’s no rule protecting transgender service members now.

Landon Wilson, a U.S. Navy cryptologic technician, returned from Afghanistan in 2013 to a promotion for good work. But even as he was receiving awards, the military brass was processing his discharge—they had found out he was transgender.

Wilson had paid out of pocket to transition from female to male and had enlisted in 2011, believing that the military would be more accepting after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The Pentagon has made enormous strides with the LGBT community, even celebrating LGBT pride month this past June. But it wouldn’t accept him.

“I’m a sailor before I’m transgender. I joined the military to be part of the organization the military is. I grew up in a military town…to me the most natural option was to join the service,” said Wilson, now on the board of SPART*A, a group that represents some 250 active duty transgender service members. “There’s not a day that passes that I don’t think about rejoining the service, so I look forward to the day when that’s a possibility.”

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SOURCE: The Daily Beast
Tim Mak

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