A Navy veteran who has transitioned since her military career ended has successfully petitioned the Pentagon to have her military records reflect her correct gender. This is the first time the Pentagon has approved such a change.
Autumn Sandeen was assigned male at birth but knew that she was female in her teen years. She entered the Navy, where she served for two decades before retiring. During her military career, she kept her true gender a secret for fear of dismissal on mental health grounds. She told reporters “If I would have been myself, I would have been kicked out… feel like we should able to serve openly because we are physically able to serve openly. It’s not a disorder,” she said. “We’re not allowing capable people who have something to offer the country to serve their country.” Despite the ban on openly gay and lesbian soldiers from serving being lifted in 2011, the ban on transgender soldiers remained. There is hope that this can also be removed now that the American Psychiatric Association no longer recognizes gender identity disorder as a mental disorder.
After originally filing the request in 2011 with the office of Veteran’s Affairs, Autumn’s records were updated earlier this month in both the VA office and the Pentagon. Sandeen even purchased a woman’s uniform for photographs to replace her photographs from before her transition. “By showing you can actually change your gender marker with the Department of Defense, it shows that the Department of Defense actually will do that, and if they do that then it’s another stop toward figuring out a way to have open service for trans people” she said.