Defense Secretary Hagel: trans service policy ‘should be continually reviewed’Bottom Highlights, Trans Progressive Thursday, May 15th, 2014
Commentary: Trans Progressive
What a weekend it was for the LGBT community this past Mother’s Day weekend. Michael Sam became the first openly gay football player drafted by an NFL team, drag performer Conchita Wurst won the annual Eurovision Song contest and the Arkansas State Supreme Court ruled for marriage equality.
But in a development that truly made the weekend a fully LGBT inclusive one of LGBT news, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel stated in an interview with ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz that “The issue of transgender [military service] is a bit more complicated because of a medical component in it. These issues require medical attention. Austere conditions, where we put our men and women, don’t always provide that opportunity. I do think it should be continually reviewed – I’m open to that, by the way.”
“I’m open to those assessments because, again, I go back to the bottom line,” Hagel added. “Every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it. This is an area that we’ve not defined enough.”
The question posed by Raddatz to Hagel regarding open transgender military service stunned me. Transgender issues are rarely covered by mainstream news, and when these are these seem to be focused on individual trans people instead of broad transgender issues.
The answer was even more stunning. We went from a few weeks ago when a Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson, Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Christensen stated to the Associated Press that there are “no plans to change the department’s policy and regulations which do not allow transgender individuals to serve in the U.S. military” to the secretary of defense stating that the transgender policy should be “continually reviewed.”
An unnamed DoD official told LGBT Weekly that that there is currently no on-going review of the department’s transgender policy. One can reasonably assume there will be one soon, but no doubt trans military open service activists will be applying pressure to determine when such a study is going to be undertaken.
One can also reasonably assume that the report by a commission led by Clinton administration Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders looking into transgender service will be considered in any policy review process. That report, released by the Palm Center, found that there “is no compelling medical reason” for the U.S. military’s prohibition against allowing transgender Americans from serving in the military.
There is already pushback from social and religious conservatives. The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer stated on his Focal Point broadcast Facebook page, “Don’t say we didn’t warn you: they’re now pressing to remove the ban on transgenders in the military.”
Also, Center For Military Readiness director Elaine Donnelly told OneNewsNow that there are “very substantial medical expenses” for a person transitioning to the opposite sex. “In some cases this might even become an incentive for young people who are, as they say, questioning,” she added.
The costs are not as substantial as Donnelly contends. But as for being an incentive for joining the military services, would that really be a bad thing? I’d argue it wouldn’t be. As I tell people regarding my own 20-years in the U.S. Navy, is being a trans person who loves their country enough to want to be part of an organization that is called on to protect their country’s rights provided under the Constitution such a surprising thing?
Open service for trans people is likely not as far away as one might think. It may be within a handful, or a couple of fingers into two handfuls, of years before open service for trans servicemembers becomes reality.
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