Transgender military personnel from a number of American allied countries met in Washington, D.C. this week to discuss what they say are the benefits of allowing open transgenders in active military service.
Organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, the conference met in the nation’s Capitol to continue pressure on the Pentagon to allow open transgenders to serve in the U.S. military.
Advocates and many in the medical and scientific field believe that people are not born with a specific gender but are assigned one at birth, but that assignment may not match up to the person’s “gender identity” such that a man may believe he is really a woman and vice versa.
The American Psychiatric Associations diagnostic manual has held that such a disconnect is a sign of mental imbalance, and the military has used that to keep transgenders from serving. The diagnostic manual has changed in recent years and now holds that only “gender dysphoria” — stress at the disconnect — could be a problem, though one treatable by counseling, hormone therapy, and even surgery.
Transgender military personnel from 18 countries attended the conference in what they say is the largest international conference of its kind and the first ever held in the US. Allied countries included serving personnel from Canada, England, Israel, New Zealand, and Australia. Speakers at the conference spoke on a variety of topics, all of which pointed to their assertion that openly serving transgenders pose no problems for military readiness or effectiveness.
Former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders chaired one of the commissions, which said, “We find that there is no compelling medical rationale for banning transgender military service, and that eliminating the ban would advance a number of military interests, including enabling commanders to better care for their service members.”
The Elders report said that because the American Psychiatric Association no longer classifies “gender non-conformity” as a disorder that the military should follow its lead.
The report also called for the military to pay for cross-sex hormone treatment and even sex change operations for what they claim are 15,000 closeted transgenders now in the active service or the reserves. They estimate that no more than 230 military personnel would seek sex change operations at a cost of slightly less than $30,000 per surgery. Surgeries include “…chest reconstruction and surgeries to create testes and penises for [female to male], and facial feminization, breast augmentation and surgeries to remove testes and create vaginas for [male to female].”
The Elders report claims transgenders are more than twice as likely to serve in the military as others and that 90% of transgenders in the military are male-to-female “transgender women.”
The report also said President Obama could strike down the ban without Congressional approval.