New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, introduced a bipartisan amendment to protect transgender service members from President Trump’s plan to ban from the military.
The amendment introduced Monday would prohibit the Department of Defense from dismissing current transgender service members “solely on the basis of the member’s gender identity,”Senators said in a statement.
“Any individual who wants to join our military and meets the standards should be allowed to serve, period. Gender identity should have nothing to do with it,” Gillibrand, a Democrat, said in a statement. “If individuals are willing to put on the uniform of our country, be deployed in war zones, and risk their lives for our freedoms, then we should be expressing our gratitude to them, not trying to exclude them from military service,” said Collins, a Republican.
President Donald Trump announced in July that the government wouldn’t accept transgender people to service in the military.
“We want to serve, we’re proud to serve,” said Danielle Twomey, a transgender woman who served five years in the Air Force.
Twomey said it’s a “big deal” for a Republican senator like Collins to break from the president and fight for transgender troops. But she calls the amendment “a start.” Twomey wants to see those same protections applied to people trying to enlist.
“This is only applying to those that are in the military,” Twomey said. “So for me, it’s sort of halfway there.”
President Trump is preparing to give the Defense Department formal authority to expel transgender people from the military in an upcoming order, barring the Pentagon from recruiting transgender troops and cutting off payment for sexual reassignment surgery and other medical treatments for those already serving.
A White House memo that is expected to be sent to the Pentagon in coming days gives Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, six months to enforce the transgender ban that Mr. Trump announced abruptly last month in a series of tweets. The directive was confirmed Wednesday by a person familiar with its contents but who was not authorized to discuss its details and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The authority has not yet been finalized. Once it is approved, it would allow Mr. Mattis to force out transgender service members by setting a legal standard of whether they would be able to deploy to war zones or for other lengthy military missions.
The president’s order-by-social media caught senior military officials by surprise and short-circuited the customary interagency policy process that attends such sweeping decisions. At the time, as senior military officials scrambled to determine how to carry out the order, White House officials said they would work with the Pentagon to devise a policy to fit Mr. Trump’s tweets.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, declined late Wednesday to comment on any forthcoming guidance, saying the White House had no announcement on the matter. The memo was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.²
Advocates of allowing transgender people to serve openly said the guidance imposed an unacceptable double standard.
“It is unconscionable that the commander in chief would take aim at his own, loyally serving troops for political reasons at a time when the military needs to focus on real threats,” said Aaron Belkin, the director of the Palm Center, a research institute that had worked with the military to devise its policy on admitting transgender service members.
“Imposing one set of standards for transgender troops, and another set of standards for everyone else is a recipe for disruption, distraction and waste,” Mr. Belkin said.¹
Mr. Trump gave no warning before announcing the ban in July and declaring on Twitter that American forces could not afford the “tremendous medical costs and disruption” of transgender service members. The president said he had consulted generals and military experts, but Mr. Mattis was given only a day’s notice about Mr. Trump’s decision.
The upcoming guidance — basing expulsion on a troop’s ability to serve — appears to be an attempt to reconcile Mr. Trump’s call for a blanket ban with concerns about whether the defense secretary should dismiss transgender forces who are currently in the ranks.
Mr. Trump’s decision was roundly denounced by members of both parties, many of whom argued that anyone willing and able to fight for their country should be welcomed into the military.
“This is NOT how you keep America safe,” Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the minority leader, said in a Twitter post. “Period. #ProtectTransTroops.”
The ban reverses a year-old policy crafted by the Obama administration that allowed transgender people to serve openly in the military.
That policy affects only a small portion of the approximately 1.3 million active-duty members of the military. Some 2,000 to 11,000 active-duty and reserves troops are transgender, according to a 2016 RAND Corporation study³ commissioned by the Pentagon, though estimates of the number of transgender service members have varied widely, and are sometimes as high as 15,000.
The issue became a flash point for social conservatives who argued that transgender people had no place in the military. Some Republican lawmakers threatened to refuse to fund the military without a prohibition on using federal money to pay for transition surgery or related hormone therapy.
“As transgender service members, we are and have always been soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen first,” said Blake Dremann, the president of Sparta, an L.G.B.T. military group with 500 active-duty members. “We serve our country honorably, in good faith.”
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Le’O Wallace, is a 27 year old trans male originally from Chicago Illinois. He currently lives in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, with his younger sister and fur baby, (his cat). He serves in the military as a reservist and also works for Panasonic on the civilian side. He is very passionate about his career in the military, civilian job, family, his lady (sorry ladies), and about helping others when he can. Le’O started his transition in November 2015, when he decided what exactly he wanted for himself and who he truly was as a person.
“I remember when I was younger always hanging out with the guys, not so much girls and it never phased me one bit. For the longest time I thought for sure I was one of the guys. Even when my mom dressed me up in girl clothes. I didn’t care because I was one of the guys, did what they did, and didn’t feel weird about it. It wasn’t until I got older, and my body started puberty as a female, did I realize, that I’m really not like the other guys. Though that bothered me some, I just continued to live my life as a masculine individual. I played all kinds of sports while I was in school. I had the most fun playing wrestling, football, and was even the only female on my high school football team for 3 years and wrestling team for 2 years. Of course, I had to continually prove myself because, some of the guys didn’t think I should be there. Yet, I surely gain their respect after making it through 2 weeks of hell week, when I played football. When high school was over I continued to struggle with trying to find a place where I fit, and for people to see me as another man. Even though that’s what I wanted, when people would use male pronouns, because I was assigned female at birth, I’d correct them as if it wasn’t right. I didn’t know at the time, what I was feeling then was actually called gender dysphoria. I just thought I needed to keep suppressing those feelings of wanting to be this guy that I wasn’t assigned at birth,” says Le’O Wallace.
It was a few years ago while on Active Duty that Le’O says he started watching YouTube videos on other people like himself. Listening to what they were going through. It was through those videos that he says he learned what transgender meant. At that time being active duty and coming out as trans was not an option, so he left his position and kept it to himself. Later he would join the reserves, feeling it would be easier to transition while continuing to serve, and continued his education. That November in 2015 was when he decided to go see a therapist and figure himself out. After attending therapy session, support group for other trans guys, he decided to live his truth. On 6 April 2016 Le’O says he had his first shot of testosterone and began living his authentic truth, while serving his country ever since.
Last week #notourpresident tweeted a ban on transgender service, though currently unofficial, it has halted the hopes of many transgender military service members. Our country is plagued by division at an all time high. Records numbers of African American men have been victim to police violence and the murders of transgender women of color continues to be an epidemic, largely ignored by our own black community. Division plagues even the trans community. The voices of trans men of color often goes overlooked or out right ignored. Trans men of color are among the most courageous, silent heroes of our community, as well as trans military personnel that are the most ignored and under appreciated people serving this country with their lives. For these reasons and many more is why Le’O Wallace is TMP’s Role Model of the Month.
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Recent U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) policy banned transgender personnel from serving openly in the military. Potential changes to this policy raised questions regarding access to gender transition–related health care. It examined the costs of covering transition-related treatments, assessed the potential readiness implications of a policy change, and reviewed the experiences of foreign militaries that permit transgender personnel to serve openly. RAND, has consistently stated:
Using private health insurance claims data to estimate the cost of extending gender transition–related health care coverage to transgender personnel indicated that active-component health care costs would increase by between $2.4 million and $8.4 million annually, representing a 0.04- to 0.13-percent increase in active-component health care expenditures.
Even upper-bound estimates indicate that less than 0.1 percent of the total force would seek transition-related care that could disrupt their ability to deploy.
While the US, maybe considered the most strongest free nation on Earth, these nations are proving they have strengthen their military more, while having transgender inclusion in their armed forces. While there are more nations, the US wants to join by banning transgender services, there is an estimated 20 leading nations with no such ban. Several like the U.K., Australia, Thailand, Austria, Belgium come with restrictions, limited pay of health care, or limit trans people to administrative duties only, as in the case with Thailand. Below are the top nations for complete inclusion of trans military, with UK as the least amongst them.
Netherlands became the first to allow transgender people in the military only a few years after the Stonewall riots, in 1974. The Dutch military was the first to go on record not only permitting Trans troops in 1974, but encouraging pride in all LGBT identities. The Netherlands has become the most culturally liberal country in the world, with recent polls indicating that more than 90% of Dutch people support same-sex marriage. Amsterdam has frequently been named one of the most LGBT friendly cities in the world. Although, transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender, discrimination protections on the grounds of gender identity or expression have not been explicitly enacted countrywide yet. The Dutch parliament enacted the Equal Rights Act in 1994, which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment, housing, and both public and private accommodations. Transgender people are protected under the category ‘gender’. Although gender identity is not specifically mentioned, there have been cases where the Dutch Institute for Human Rights has ruled that transgender people fall under this clause. However, in 2014 the Ministry of BZK started exploring how the ban on discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression can be made explicit in the Equal Rights Act. The results were published on June 23, 2016.¹
Keeping up with its Nordic neighbors, Sweden has extended full protection from discrimination to all LGBT people in its military ranks since a legislative reform in 2008. LGBT rights in Sweden have been regarded as some of the most progressive in Europe and in the world. Sweden became the first country in the world to allow transgender people to change their legal gender post-sex reassignment surgery in 1972. Being transgender was declassified as a mental illness in 2008, and legislation allowing gender change legally without hormone replacement therapy and sex reassignment surgery was passed in 2013. The Swedish Armed Forces states that it actively work for an environment where individuals do not feel it to be necessary to hide their sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2015, they launched a Pride campaign featuring a soldier in uniform with the rainbow flag badget to her arm. The text’s bold letters translates to “Some things you should not have to camouflage,” followed by the text “Equality is an important ingredient in a democracy.” “In the military, we treat each other with respect and see our differences as a strength. We are an inclusive organisation where all who serve and contribute should feel welcomed and respected”²
The Israel Defense Forces have knowingly included transgender soldiers since 1998³. In 2014, the Israeli military said it had at least five transgender members and would support future such conscripts. Israel’s national healthcare plan provides stipends to citizens who are transitioning. Retired Gen. Elazar Stern was stupefied when a reporter from Israel Army Radio called Wednesday to ask for his reaction to President Trump’s series of tweets about banning the service of transgender military personnel. “It makes us strong that we don’t waste time on questions like this,” said Stern, the former commander of the Israel Defense Forces Manpower Command. “It’s something to be proud of.” Stern, now a member of Israel’s parliament for the centrist Yesh Atid party, said that throughout his 34-year career in the army,
“in every post, at every level, always, I knew there were homosexual individuals serving with me. No transgender people that I knew of, but maybe. We would never ask, honestly, and we’re not supposed to know. The army’s task is to support its soldiers no matter what their needs, not meddle about in their lives.”
Friend of TMP, and Israeli Armed Forces Veteran Adi Anhang, told TMPlanet about the atmosphere in Israel. “I feel like we are taking positive strides regarding the way the country treats the trans community. The fact that our army allows for people to not only serve in a division that suits their gender identity, but also that the army actively helps and protects trans soldiers. I think it’s amazing and shows that we are doing something right. Obviously there are issues with biggots and close minded people, but as an organization the army is pretty supportive,” said Adi Anhang
“We welcome Cdns of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Join us!” it reads, with a photograph of Royal Canadian Navy Band members playing instruments festooned in Pride colours.
Jordan Owens, spokesperson for Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, said the government is fully committed to building a defense team that “reflects Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion.”Our diversity strategy and action plan will promote an institution-wide culture that embraces diversity and inclusion, and we will continue to focus on the recruitment and retention of under-represented groups within the Canadian Forces’ ranks,” she said in a statement to CBC News.That’s in sharp contrast to the U.S. president’s new policy, announced through a series of Twitter posts Wednesday, which says transgender individuals will not be permitted to serve “in any capacity.”
The Czech Republic extended full military service rights to all LGBT people in 1999. The first sex reassignment surgery in the country took place in 1942, when a trans man subsequently changed his legal sex to male. Currently, 50-60 people undergo such surgeries annually in the country. ECRI notes that there is no³ official data on the LGBT population in the country, although the authorities carried out an in-depth Analysis of the Situation of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Minority in the Czech Republic in 2007. Research demonstrates that in general there is broad tolerance for LGBT persons in the country. In a global survey published in June 2013, the Czech Republic had the third highest percentage in Europe (80%, after Spain and Germany) and worldwide (on a par with Canada) of people agreeing that “society should accept homosexuality”.
Cristina Fernandez de Kirschner, signed into law the country’s gender identity bill, establishing Argentina as the most trans-friendly legal environment in the entire world. Under the new law, trans people will be able to change their legal gender and name without judicial permission or any requirement that they undergo surgeries. Further, once these changes are made, trans people will have access to the country’s socialized medical system for all their transition-related care for free including any desired surgeries. People will be able to legally change their IDs started on June 4. Argentina’s new trans protections only add to a list of LGBT friendly policies the country has passed, including marriage equality, adoption by same-sex couples, open military service and nondiscrimination policies. After a sordid 20th century history of repression, military rule, and brief war with the U.K., Argentine forces are primarily used for humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping now.4
The rising leader in continental and trans-Atlantic politics has liberalized its military in stages since the fall of communism. LGBT people were first allowed to enlist in 1990, and were first allowed to pursue commissions in 2000, according to the CBC. Discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity vary across Germany, but discrimination in employment and the provision of goods and services is in principle banned countrywide. Transgender people have been allowed to change their legal gender since 1980. The law initially required them to undergo surgical alteration of their genitals in order to have key identity documents changed. This has since been declared unconstitutional.
Transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender without the need of sex reassignment surgery or sterilization. Discrimination regarding sexual orientation and gender identity and expression has been banned nationwide since 1996. In November 2006, Zapatero’s Government passed a law that allows transgender persons to register under their preferred sex in public documents such as birth certificates, identity cards and passports without undergoing prior surgical change.The law came into effect on 17 March 2007. Through this Law, ratified by the Congress of Deputies on March 1, Spain has a specific legislation that provides coverage and legal certainty to the need for these people, who have an adequate diagnosis, to correct the registry allocation of their Sex that is contradictory to their identity. In short, it will prevent these people from having a discordant name with the sex they feel.5
While the small South American nation wasn’t considered progressive on gay and trans rights until very recently, it opened the armed forces’ ranks to LGBT people in 2015. Article 14(II) of the Constitution of Bolivia forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In 2010, the government criminalized discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity under article 23 of the Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination (Law 737/2010). In 2016, Bolivia passed the Gender Identity Law, seen as one of the most progressive laws related to transgender people in the world. Additionally, since 2017, transgender people have been able to marry people of the same biological sex. The Gender Identity Law allows individuals over 18 to legally change their name, gender and photography on legal documents. A psychological test proving that the person knows and voluntarily assumes the change of identity is a requirement, but sex reassignment surgery is not. The process is confidential and must carry out before the Civil Registry Service. The processing of the new documentation will take 15 days. The change of name and gender will be reversible once, after which they cannot modify these data again. Since October 2016, the Bolivian Congress has debated whether to repeal the Gender Identity Law. In June 2017, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal issued an instruction in which it notified the Civil Registry Service to proceed with the registration of marriages of transgender people. The instruction states that transgender people who have made the changes regulated by the Gender Identity Law may enter into civil marriage. This means that same-sex marriage is legal in Bolivia, but only if at least one of the two partners is transgender.
The main commander of Britain’s combat ground forces, Lt. Gen. Patrick Sanders, has personally taken up the fight to ensure full rights of LGBT soldiers in the service. Currently, the UK expects transgender enlistees to “have have finished transitioning before they are allowed to serve,” according to HCSS. Sanders — a veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland, and the Balkan conflict — has said that “only if individuals are free to be themselves can we release the genie of their potential, for the greater good.”
That said, the British military has more or less avoided the debate over paying for troops’ gender reassignment surgeries. U.K. law requires citizens to live two years in their “acquired gender” before being eligible for official recognition and enlistment.
As we said in the beginning, there are several leading nations, but with restrictions. Yet their efforts in inclusion also needs recognition and here is that list.
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Human Rights Watch: In 2012, the Gender Identity Law established the right of individuals over the age of 18 to choose their gender identity, undergo gender reassignment, and revise official documents without any prior judicial or medical approval.