It's been a year and a half since 'Dont' Ask, Dont' Tell,' the Pentagon's long-standing ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the US armed forces, officially ended.
But the celebration that accompanied the end of DADT was clouded by the little-reported reality that a whole segment of the American population is still barred from joining the service and faces expulsion from the military should their true identities be discovered.
The end of DADT was hailed by many social justice advocates as a great day for LGBT rights. This is only partially true. For the "L" (lesbians), "G" (gays) and "B" (bisexuals), this was certainly true. But for the "T"-- transgender individuals-- nothing could be further from the truth. Not only are patriotic transgender aspirants barred from joining the military, any trans people discovered serving are subject to expulsion, even if they're just cross-dressing.
This is because being transgendered is still considered a "psychosexual" ailment by the Pentagon. It's called Gender Identity Disorder (GID), and not only is it no longer considered a 'disorder' by the American Psychiatric Association, the very notion of it being one illustrates the ignorance of those who designate it as such. When trans people express their true gender identities, it may confuse and appall those who are unfamiliar with the issue. But the person expressing his or herself certainly is not confused, and it can be argued that forced denial of an individual's correct identity is the true disorder.
And so it is that many transgender service members-- nobody really knows how many there are, since they must remain closeted or risk dishonorable discharge-- fight a daily battle to pass for their biological sex and hide their true identities from everyone around them, no matter how admirably they serve. For pre-operational transsexuals, passing is all the more difficult. Add in the military mindset, which places great importance on honor, and living a lie can be downright agonizing for transgender service members.
"When you're in the Army you're taught core values-- two of those are honesty and integrity," Jack K., a female-to-male (FTM) transsexual who was booted from the service in 2007 under the old DADT rules, told the Harvard Crimson. "You can't live that and lie about important parts of your life."
The old-school 'binary view' of human bodies, that they can only assume two biological forms-- male and female-- is giving way to more fluid, less rigid interpretations that more accurately reflect the true spectrum of human sexuality. The existence of a 'third sex' is increasingly acknowledged, and nations such as India, Nepal and even Pakistan have officially recognized transgender individuals as members of a distinct third gender. This is nothing new-- as far back as ancient Sumeria, cultures around the globe have recognized the existence of individuals who were neither male nor female.
That's not to say that many of the transgender troops identify themselves as third gender. The vast majority don't. The point is to call attention to the fact that gender identity is fluid and varies widely and that faithful expression of one's true self is not a mental disorder.
Gender identity experts say the Pentagon is capable of updating its rigid, discriminatory and ignorant classification of transgender individuals.
"There is no reason why the military cannot use objective, rational criteria to determine if a trans person is fit to serve," National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) executive director Mara Keisling told OutServe Magazine. "The range of trans people is huge. Some people may have already transitioned entirely by the time they want to serve. Some people may identify as trans but have no desire to physically transition. But they're still not allowed to serve because the disqualification is condition-based, not dependent upon the individual."
"Whether I have an Adam's Apple or not does not affect the way I serve," Jack K. told the Crimson. "... If anything, my transition has enhanced [my ability to serve.] I can do more push-ups and run faster."
It's high time for the Obama administration to do the right thing by the nation's millions of transgender individuals and begin the process of repealing the military's discriminatory and ignorant ban on transgender service members. The fact that we're even having this conversation in 2013 shows just how far we still have to evolve before we really are a nation that truly offers "liberty and justice for all."
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com