Iraq war veteran Specialist John Ackley, who served in Iraq with the 34th Red Bull Infantry Division in 2009 and changed her gender afterward, is asking the military to allow transgender people to serve on duty because she wants to enlist again.
Ackley, who know goes by the name Ashley, was denied her request to re-enlist, and said in an interview with CNN on Wednesday that when she first contacted officials expressing her desire to rejoin the National Guard, they were happy to have her back on board – until she mentioned that she was living as a female now, which ruled her out for re-enlistment.
Lt. Col. Kevin Olson, a spokesperson for the Minnesota National Guard, sent a statement to CNN that stated that transgender people are considered to have a disorder, which is why they are not allowed to serve.
"A history of, or current manifestations of...transsexual, gender identity disorder to include major abnormalities or defects of genitalia such as change of sex or a current attempt to change sex...or dysfunctional residuals from surgical correction of these conditions render an individual administratively unfit," the statement read.
"I thought it was funny, and almost ironic. This didn't just prop up, this gender identity disorder has been an issue my entire life. But I manage to, with this 'disorder,' serve for six years and have a successful tour in Iraq," said Ackley, who has reportedly undergone hormone theraphy.
The vet revealed that it was not actually impossible for her to still be called up for service – she has been placed on an Army reserves list, meaning that in a worst-case scenario, she could be called on to help – but she does not believe such a thing is likely to happen.
"We are not broken. I have been reached out to by many, many prior service members who are now going through this transition, who have had very distinguished careers. I believe we are just as capable as any other person supporting our country," Ackley added.
She shared that although it is logistically impossible for transgender people who have not yet had sexual reassignment surgery to serve in the Army, she is at least fighting for post-surgery individuals to be granted those rights.
Last year, when the U.S. military removed its "don't ask, don't tell" policy and allowed homosexuals to serve openly in the military, a civil rights group that includes transsexuals and cross-dressers asked to be granted the same privileges as well.
"Our position is that the military should re-examine the policy, the medical regulations, so as to allow open service for transgender people," said Vincent Paolo Villano, spokesman for the 6,000-member Center for Transgender Equality.