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As Advocates Gather in D.C., Pelosi Endorses Trans Military Service

As Advocates Gather in D.C., Pelosi Endorses Trans Military Service


This week House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi became one of the first politicians to officially come out in support of trans people serving openly in the U.S. military.

A spokesperson for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told the Washington Blade on Friday that the California Democrat believes gender identity should not be a factor prohibiting prospective soldiers from enlisting in the U.S. armed forces.

Currently, openly transgender citizens are barred from serving in the U.S. military by the Department of Defense's instruction 6130.03, established in the 1970s, which disqualifies anyone with a "history of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia, such as change of sex [and] hermaphroditism," or who has a "current or history of psychosexual conditions (302) including but not limited to transsexualism."

Pelosi, a former Speaker who stands as one of the the highest-ranking female politicians in U.S. history, is among a number of Democrats, including her fellow California Rep. Susan Davis, and Massachussets Rep. Niki Tsongas, who support trans service members serving openly, notes the Blade.

The Congresswomen are joined by trans rights advocates who have been escalating pressure on the Department of Defense to end the regulation following the 2011 repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers from serving openly.

As the trans military ban is not a law, but rather a departmental policy, the DOD has the ability to end the requirement without Congressional action. But despite Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel's May 2014 statement that he was "open" to reviewing the ban, no action has been taken, according to a White House spokesman questioned on the issue by the Washington Blade.

To reignite discussion on the topic, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Palm Center convened a conference in Washington, D.C., this month, examining "Perspectives on Transgender Military Service from Around the Globe" to highlight the successful efforts of allied nations to integrate transgender citizens into their armed forces. Military leaders from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Sweden spoke with transgender veterans and advocates in the first-of-its-kind conference intended to "inform the national conversation about U.S. military policy," according to Bilerico.

Research has increasingly pointed to the conclusion that, as a landmark study from the Palm Center found earlier this year, there is "no compelling medical rationale" to continue disqualifying transgender Americans from serving openly in the armed forces. The study concluded that the military's policies concerning health care for trans service members are inconsistent with its treatment of cisgender (non-trans) soldiers who require medically necessary hormones and reconstructive surgeries, and pointed out that the military's stance is no longer in accord with scientific consensus, which, as of the 5th edition of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, no longer considers gender-nonconformity a mental illness.

According to the University of California at Los Angeles' Williams Institute, nearly 15,500 trans servicemembers currently serve in the U.S. military and are still unable to be open about their gender identities or seek medically necessary healthcare. If any of those service members are outed as trans or pursue any kind of gender-affirming treatment, they can be discharged with paperwork that lists their reason for dismissal as one based on gender-nonconformity, which impacts their ability to access earned benefits like pension and can compromise the service member's safety and future professional prospects.

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Mitch Kellaway