A recent report concluded that the US military has the resources it needs to allow transgender personnel to serve openly. Unfortunately, military policies don’t allow them to do so.

The study, conducted by Palm Center, found that 15,000 transgender personnel currently serve in US armed forces, although standards dictate that they don’t do so openly. Researchers found that it is feasible for the US military to form and implement a more inclusive policy for transgender personnel, therefore joining 18 countries around the world that allow transgender individuals to openly serve. The report also recommended that transition-related surgery “be regarded no differently from any other surgery.”

“The decision to allow transgender personnel to serve in the military reflects the core values and principles that all military personnel should serve with honor and integrity,” the survey concluded, “and the military should not needlessly separate personnel who are willing and able to serve.”

US military policy currently classifies identifying as transgender as a psychological disorder, and standards require that anyone who has had transition-related surgery be rejected for service. The language the military currently has in its Standards of Medical Fitness excluding trans-identified folks was possibly based on an old version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) that said transgender people experience a “gender identity disorder.” However, the most recent DSM classifies this as “gender dysphoria” and suggests that the condition is not be pathological.

“This is a little different than ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Aaron Belkin, founder and director of the Palm Center, said. “With ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ [a former US policy that banned openly LGBT personnel that also prohibited discrimination against closeted LGBT personnel], you could really just get rid of the ban, and it was fine. With transgender inclusion, you don’t want to just get rid of the ban and do nothing. There are a few steps, but those steps aren’t difficult.”

Media Resources: Al-Jazeera America 8/26/2014; Palm Center 8/2014; The Huffington Post 6/4/2013; DSM-5; US Army Regulation

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