Transgender in the Military

August 30, 2011

Before I begin, let me stress that my opinions in no way reflect the ideas and opinions of the United States Military, United States Government, or any other really important organizations that I don’t want to piss off.  I have never served in any branch of the armed forces.  I am not a veteran, I do not have personal experience being transgendered in the military.  That said, I did spend the better part of the past 7 years preparing, getting letters of recommendation, filling out applications, taking tests, and just getting really excited to join the USMC.  Throughout my life, I’ve had many different phases where I pick one thing that I think I am really interested in, dedicate my life to it for half a year and then decide that it’s not for me.  The USMC has remained something that I want to do and something I was dedicated to doing longer than anything else in my entire life.  I wanted to be a Marine more than anything.  I had a completed application (which, lemme tell you, is quite a fucking feat), I was signed up for medical testing, I took all the tests, but two things kept me from being able to join: my fatal allergy to  bee stings, and the fact that I’m transgendered.

Now the bee sting thing would have been an easy fix, I just take shots with small doses of bee juice in them until I become immune, easy-peasy.  My transgenderism is not something that I can or want to change.  Ultimately I had to choose: either I transition now while I’m young and give up my right to fight for my country (unless the rules change within the next few years…but I’m not holding my breath) OR I put off my transition, pretend to be a girl, serve as a marine, and then transition after I get out.  It took me several months to make a decision, I cried a lot about it, and honestly, I’m still not sure if I won’t regret not serving.  I will probably regret it a lot.  But the fact is, I’m not willing to sacrifice my happiness to pretend to be something I’m not.  Making that decision was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, and working through myself to find an answer was exhausting, but the shittiest part is the fact that I had to make it in the first place.  Why couldn’t I just join and transition at the same time? (Here comes the part where I bust on the system for being embarrassingly exclusive and un-progressive…)

DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell)-First of all, it’s about fucking time that it got repealed.  Really?  It took us until December of 2010 to realize that gay and lesbian persons are capable of fighting for our country? I can’t believe how long that took.  Anyways, glad it is repealed now, and very glad and happy for all of the gay and lesbian persons allowed to be open about themselves and defend our nation at the same time.  Heres the thing though, DADT was just the very first baby step in the process of gaining military equality, there are still many flaws (curious about them then let me know and maybe I’ll do another post, but I’m going to try to stick to trans stuff in this one), one of the major ones being that DADT didn’t/doesn’t cover transgendered persons.  DADT is based on sexual orientation not gender identity, so its repeal didn’t really help much with transgender inequality in the military.

GID (Gender Identity Disorder)-I did a brief post on GID when I was officially diagnosed, but just a summary: gender identity disorder is the psychological disorder that transgendered people are/must be diagnosed with in order to receive medical care (such as therapy, hormone treatment, and surgeries).  The US military considers GID a psychological disorder that should result in immediate dismissal of service or disqualification of application for service.  So basically, if you have ever sought any form of medical help or supplement for transgenderism you are immediately turned away at the recruiting office. You know, because transgendered people are psychologically sick with all their disorders and stuff, they are obviously totally incapable of handling the extremes of the military…bullshit.

TEXTBOOK BODY TYPE REQUIREMENT-If a transgendered person has not had hormone treatment or a diagnosis of GID but has had any type of gender-confirming surgery they will be immediately disqualified or dismissed.  The military considers the surgeries as major genital abnormalities therefore the person’s body is considered defective and incapable of handling military physical demands.  Theres really no way around it either.  The physical examination is pretty extensive and invasive, there is no way to hide scars or body parts.  If you do not show up with the same bodies parts you were born with and if those body parts don’t match the pictures in Gray’s Anatomy (talking about the book here, not the show) then you cannot serve in the military.

MILITARY DEPENDENCE ON GENDER SEPARATION-I’m referring to the fact that the entire system of the military and all of the millions of rules, procedures, codes of conduct, and EVERYTHING is rooted in the practice of keeping male-bodied people and female-bodied people completely separate.  They fight separately, they sleep separately, they train separately, they dress in very obviously different and separate styles, fuck, they live in separate buildings!  In order for transgender people to reach equality in the military (if they are ever actually allowed to serve) we are going to have to rewrite the entire fucking book on which our military operations are based to include body types other than textbook male and female.  What about a little of both?  What about A LOT of both?  What about neither? Can we comprehend the idea that there are more than two body types?  I expect that many brains will explode.

 In conclusion: YAY DADT GOT REPEALED! But what about the rest of the LGBTQ population? We need to keep pushing for equality because right now we are frightfully far from it.  Spread the word, get involved, educate the people around (god, I sound like a campaign ad), and fight injustice for your fellow citizens even if the problem at hand doesn’t directly affect you.  IT IS IMPORTANT.

4 Responses to “Transgender in the Military”

  1. Got a few great questions-gonna answer them here!

    1) Were you training for the male or female PFT (physical fitness test) requirements?

    I was training for the female PFT requirements because that was the only way that they would ever let me in…If I had been able to join I would have to identify as a female.

    2) How do you propose the military should evaluate you and other members of the GLBTQ community as far as physical testing goes?

    I think that EVERYONE should be evaluated individually and that gender identity shouldn’t affect your physical expectations. Every body is different regardless of gender identity, people have different hormone levels, people have different muscle masses, people have different lung capacities, and because of all these differences I think that PFT requirements should be based on an individual’s ability (you know, maybe do some kind of physical assessment at the initial commissioning or enlistment to determine that individuals physical capacity). Standardized testing sucks and it is unfair to hold every person’s body to the same expectations simply because no two bodies are alike. Now, I’m not trying to say that the PFT requirements should become easier or anything like that, being in the military is a physical job and you have to be a certain type of fit to be successful in that career. So maybe they should have some minimum requirements? Like, every single person in the military has to at least be able to do this and this and this and if you can’t meet those requirements then the military isn’t for you. I understand the need for physical selectivity in order to ensure that we will be able to successfully defend our country, but selectivity and exclusiveness are two very different things.

    So how does that apply specifically to trans people? Let’s just take me for example. If I were to join the military today, right now, pre-testosterone, then my PFT requirements should reflect the fact that I don’t naturally produce a lot of testosterone and therefore I shouldn’t be held to the same expectations as those who do. In a couple months, when I have started and consistently been on testosterone, I should be reassessed for physical capacities and given a new set of PFT requirements that reflect the fact that I now have more testosterone in my system. And none of this has anything to do with whether I identify as a male, female, neither, both, other, or whatever, it is simply based on my body’s capacities.

  2. Logan said

    Nice post. I asked a recruiter once, when I was still thinking military, if having a mastectomy would disqualify me. He asked what the reason was and I said that it was to reduce the chance of breast cancer. It’s the best I could come up with that wouldn’t be reveling of my gender identity. He said it would be up to the doctor that they had doing the physical to decide. Wonderful, right?

    • maddox said

      Technically wouldn’t that make you more fit (as a woman) because, let’s face it, you have less mass to drag you down? Also, a hysterectomy would relieve you of hormonal fluctuations, not a chance of you getting pregnant, and you are not crippled by unusual “stomach” pains each month. Finally, taking testosterone would make you stronger. The logical conclusion is that all women in the military should be encouraged to take these steps to further maximize their physical capabilities while they serve!

  3. Undersomeradar said

    I’m kind of pleased the way the military is going with this. We got DADT repealed, and I realize that it doesn’t help T people out yet. However, if you look at other countries, such as Australia, they first allowed gay/les/bi members to serve, and they are just now allowing trans folk to serve. I’m disappointed that America doesn’t finish first and we are the first to do this, but someday, trans people WILL be able to serve(in American forces). It’s just the way things are going.

    But as for now, gotta grin and bare it I suppose? It’s unfortunate that you are choiced with these two difficult decisions? I can only begin to describe what I even think you might be feeling, but the best of luck to you!

    btw: In my company(Army), males and females share buildings, even floors. When in the field, we share tents as well. It’s not a command decision, but it’s relieving to see that we are all adult-enough to sleep in the same tent without any “disturbances.”

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