Friday, April 10, 2015

Transgender soldiers deserve equality

It was fascinating to learn that approximately 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military.  Since time immemorial homosexuals of all stripes have been an integral part of worldwide military cultures.  A primary historical example is the ancient Greek Sacred Band of Thebes, an elite group of soldiers: 150 pairs of male lovers in the 4th century BC.  It is not unreasonable to infer that individuals that would currently be categorized as members of the LGBT community have also always been involved in U.S. military service which until the Clinton era's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy curtailed expulsions of gays and lesbians as long as they were mum about their sexual orientation.  When the DADT policy ended on September 20, 2011 allowing gays to serve openly, I had assumed that the attitude toward transgender individuals had been similarly relaxed.  I am very surprised to learn of the military's clearly discriminatory treatment of helicopter crew chief Sgt. Shane Ortega who was barred from flight duties due to increased testosterone levels due to his medically transgender status.  Birth genetic determinants aside, Sgt. Ortega self-identifies as male and has taken the legal and medical steps so that the inner reality of his mind matches his external appearance.  Therefore, he should not have to continue to exist in a gray zone of military bureaucracy which mischaracterizes him as female and compels him to wear a woman's "dress blues."  For all intensive purposes he is male and should be treated as such.
Sgt. Ortega is a trailblazer.  With any luck the generations that come after him will have an easier time navigating military life.  Indeed, this boils down to equal treatment in a diverse melting-pot community in which transgender people are already involved.  The willingness of a patriotic heart to contribute should be the determining factor and the powers-that-be in the military should do all it can to facilitate that.   I thank the Washington Post for highlighting the military's continuing mismanagement of transgender service members; an important social issue that has received scant attention.

Re. 'He sees a man. The Army sees a woman.' Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post

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