Positive Momentum for Trans* US Troops

[Content Note: Transphobia.]

Following Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's statement in May that he's willing to review the US military's policy on out transgender servicemembers, and three retired US generals speaking out in August on behalf of letting out transgender servicemembers serve, the American Civil Liberties Union invited officers from Britain, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, and Australia, whose militaries allow service of out transgender people, to discuss how their policies work in practice.
Major Donna Harding, a nurse in the Royal Australian Army who transitioned from male to female, said that allowing and supporting such practices was vital to improving the mental health and effectiveness of transgender troops.

"Being able to be open and authentic is the key to being able to perform your job, so you are not having the stress of having to hide," she said.

The argument was echoed by Squadron Leader Sarah Maskell, who promotes equality and diversity at the Royal Air Force in Britain: "Without doubt, the more mature our inclusive policies become, the better our operational delivery becomes because we have got people who are being themselves, they are being authentic in the workplace without having to have personal challenges alongside that."

She also argued that many of the practical questions that come up, such as where people who are transitioning should shower, were easily dealt with.

"I chuckle when the shower question comes up because it's something that comes up whenever we talk about transgender personnel: it's always about showers," said Maskell.

"I'm obviously missing something … we respect privacy, so we have joined showers but they have cubicles. So somebody who has a religious observance to protect their modesty uses that shower as well. For us it's not an issue. It doesn't affect combat readiness whether there is a shower screen, it's just about normalising diversity and respect for others."

Some of the transgender troops who spoke at the event said important issues remained in overseas military forces too.

"There is still a lot more to be done," said Corporal Natalie Murray, who became the eighth member of the Canadian forces to transition in 2003, pointing to recent privacy violations in Canada.
It's always about showers!

I really love (and am grateful) that these women and men were willing to offer their time and insight, in the hope of moving the US military more quickly toward out trans* inclusion.

And the good news is: "Unlike the battle to repeal 'don't ask, don't tell,' laws outlawing openly gay people serving in the military, a move to allow transgender troops may only require administrative action by the Pentagon rather than new legislation in Congress."

That would be pretty awesome. Let's make it happen, Hagel!

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