A Victory for Transgender Vets and Hope for Open Service

Cross-posted with TG Forum. Babs is a well-known advocate, and longtime friend of Blue Jersey. For those who don’t know, she is also the first, and highest-ranking, out transgender person ever to serve the DNC. Promoted by Rosi.

In the last couple of weeks, Transgender American Veterans celebrated a big victory and trans Americans in the military, and all trans people got another glimmer of hope that the stigma of not being able to serve might be gone in the foreseeable future.

First, on November 24, two New Jersey-based transgender veterans represented by the ACLU of New Jersey were notified that they won a victory in a battle to change their names on a key military identification document, with implications for transgender veterans throughout the country. The Army Board for Correction of Military Records agreed to change the names of the two veterans on their “DD-214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty” forms, principal documents for any action requiring proof of veteran’s status.

 

It is significant to note that the Army Board had previously refused to change the names expressing total ambivalence and insensitivity to the harm to the veterans. The suit forced the plight of the vets to higher authorities in the Army and Army Review Boards Deputy Assistant Secretary Francine Blackmon granted full relief for Nicolas and Jennifer, the two New Jersey veterans petitioning for the name change. Jennifer Long retired as a Sergeant Major, the highest enlisted rank after a exceptional 29 year career that was cut short only because she could not serve openly as a woman.

I mention this in my political blog because of the positive political advocacy and engagement of transgender people and our allies with the Obama Administration and the opportunities we have had to educate. A former highly qualified astronaut candidate was disqualified by the Republican Bush Administration only because she was trans, was openly hired by the civilian military under Obama and able to be a terrific role model for transpeople around top military brass!

Trans people and our allies, our political activists and policy wonks have had the opportunity to meet and interact.  Even  I  had the opportunity to speak briefly one on one with a former SECARMY about open trans military service.

The legal work by ACLU was certainly meritorious, but things do not happen in a vacuum and their action was the straw that broke the back of ignorance and bias.

On December 10, 2014. In a USA Today interview, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James says the ban on transgender troops is likely to be reassessed and should be lifted.

“Times change,” she told Capital Download, saying the policy “is likely to come under review in the next year or so.” Asked whether dropping the ban would affect military readiness, she replied: “From my point of view, anyone who is capable of accomplishing the job should be able to serve.”

James’s remarks suggest that the momentum continues building for the military to do away with its transgender ban. Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell allowing  gays to openly serve since 2011 did nothing to allow trans service people to be open. Outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and White House officials had expressed an openness to reconsidering the policy earlier this year.

The Williams Institute, a think tank that studies the gay community, estimates that there are 15,500 transgender members of the military. Over the past two years, advocates say about two dozen people have been dismissed for being transgender. At the same time, many military members say they have noticed a greater openness within their ranks, with some transgender people serving with the knowledge of their peers, superiors and doctors.

One of the ironies is that SGM Jennifer Long, who was the direct beneficiary of the ACLU victory to have her name changed,  actually began her medical transition during her last tour of duty in Afghanistan where she engaged in several fire fights, and was awarded a bronze star for combat valor!

I would think that Jennifer is a perfect example of one who was, in the words of Secretary James, “capable of accomplishing the job”!

Want to make change? Spread the word to media, Congresspeople, Senators, President Obama! We are willing, we are able, it’s time to tear down this wall of ignorance! America needs its best people on the job!

Air Force Secretary: Transgender people should serve in military because ‘times change’

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