(Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake)
The transgender community is contending that Americans who have undergone a sex change should not be excluded from serving in the armed forces, especially after last week’s repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“Transgender people,” which not only includes transsexuals but also cross-dressers, “are denied the ability to join the armed forces as a result of various discriminatory policies,” states the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), on its website.
“Not only is this unjust to individual transgender people who wish to serve their country through military service,” it maintains, “it weakens our national defense by barring qualified people from duty.”
Former Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Rebecca Grant has become the poster girl, of sorts, for the transgender community’s effort to put transsexuals and cross dresses on equal footing with heterosexuals and homosexuals in the military.
Grant enlisted as a man more than 10 years ago, before deciding to become a woman a couple years ago. The staff sergeant was exposed by a fellow service member last year and was discharged from the military just before the repeal of "don’t ask, don’t tell."
Grant has joined with the Fairness Campaign, an organization promoting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, to educate the public about transsexualism, in hopes that the ban on transgender military service eventually will be lifted.
“We need to make sure,” said Grant, “that the gender movement cause is … made aware of. There’s no need for discrimination in this country because we’re supposed to be the land of the free.”
Military officials do not believe the armed forces are unfairly discriminating against transgenders. It considers transsexuals and cross-dressers to suffer from a gender identity disorder, rendering them unfit to serve in uniform.
NCTE argues that transsexualism is not a certifiable disorder. “Our position,” said Center spokesman Vincent Paolo Villano, “is that the military should re-examine the policy, the medical regulations, so as to allow open service for transgender people.”
The transgender community is urging President Obama to sign an executive order lifting the ban on military service not only based on sexual orientation, but also gender identity.
However, that would place the president at odds with conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill, like Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a Marine Corp combat veteran, who said this week, ”I hope the president has enough sense to see this for the unnecessary distraction it is.”