November 11, 2012
On this Veterans’ Day, NCTE salutes the contributions and sacrifices of transgender veterans. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 1 in 5 transgender adults has served in the armed forces. These brave Americans have served in silence, and often been denied the benefits they worked so hard and risked so much to earn.
In recent years, we have begun to make progress. In 2011 the Veterans Administration issued a directive calling for respectful and appropriate treatment for transgender veterans seeking health care. NCTE has continued to work with the VA to implement that directive across the country, from providing guidance to VA medical staff to updating patient records to reflect a person’s gender identity. And with the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we have finally begun a much-needed conversation about open military service for transgender people.
There is still much to do. Trans people are still forced to serve in silence, as our non-trans gay, lesbian, and bisexual brothers and sisters thankfully no longer have to do. Trans veterans are still denied their hard-earned health benefits when it comes to medically necessary transition-related surgeries. NCTE will keep working to fulfill our promises to trans servicemembers and veterans.
NCTE’s resource on VA benefits and the VA transgender directive can be found here.
Read the Veterans Health Administration Directive here.
January 30, 2012
In their groundbreaking January edition, OutServe Magazine profiles six current transgender service members and veterans, some sharing their stories in public for the first time. The article, entitled “The New DADT: Transgender Service,” highlights the daily challenges transgender people face serving in silence, and the urgently needed policy changes necessary for ending this ban.
OutServe Magazine January 2012 Cover
Despite the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” open transgender military service remains banned due to outdated military medical regulations. Mara Keisling spoke with the author of the article, Katherine Miller, about how to change these regulations. Keisling noted the significant progress federal agencies like the Department of Veterans Affairs have made that could be foundational for the Armed Forces to begin making these changes.
Commenting on the article, Keisling added, “Stories of transgender service members are crucial to getting the military to end this ban. NCTE commends OutServe for telling these important stories, and I am hopeful that this will start the conversations that will lead to social and cultural changes making it safe for anyone who wants to serve our country do so proudly.”
The article, which will go live on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, can be viewed in its entirety at www.outservemag.com.
While the ban on open transgender service exists, NCTE urges current transgender service members to read our guidance issued with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) to understand the consequences of coming out.
June 28, 2011
Transgender veterans who rely on veteran services can be among our most vulnerable community members. NCTE’s federal policy agenda has specific areas of advocacy for transgender veterans: access to healthcare through the Veterans Administration and ability to update records and documentation of military service.
From the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which NCTE conducted in partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, we learned that transgender people seem to be disproportionately represented among the ranks of American veterans. Twenty percent of our sample indicated that they had served—almost twice the level of service among the general American adult population. And 20 percent of the transgender veterans in the sample used the VA system as their primary healthcare provider. In terms of discharge papers, only 35 percent of the veterans in our sample have been able to acquire amended discharge papers (DD-215).
Read the rest of this entry »
June 28, 2011
Wednesday January 22nd, 2011 marked a historic day for many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) military community. The Department of Veterans Affairs welcomed home LGBT veteran’s with an event. Top leaders from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense spoke about their personal experiences as LGBT military veterans and on federal policies facing LGBT servicemembers. NCTE joined our friends at Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Servicemembers United, and Outserve at the event.
The pending certification of “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal was a hot button topic among the speakers. Douglas Wilson, Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at the Defense Department and firstly openly gay assistant secretary at the Pentagon, thanked gay servicemembers and highlighted the value of serving as a “whole, integrated person.”
Mara Keisling, Executive Director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, reminded everyone that transgender people will still not be permitted to serve. For the military, being transgender is a physical and mental health disqualification for service. Transgender people have served and are serving in the military “honorably and well,” she said. More are starting to serve openly despite the fact that the ban is in place and that the policies holding back transgender people from enlistment and open service are just as “onerous and unjust” as “don’t ask, don’t tell” is.
It was not all doom and gloom in regards to transgender military service. Keisling praised the VA for its recently released healthcare directive. The directive allows transgender veterans to receive fair and equal treatment at all VA facilities, update their gender marker on VA documents without a specific diagnosis or medical treatment (i.e., surgery or hormones), and covers hormones, mental health services, pre-operative and post-operative care. NCTE thanked the VA for their hard work in support of LGBT veterans.
Read NCTE’s Policy Brief on Transgender Care in VA Facilities here.
Watch video of Mara’s remarks below.
May 27, 2010
NCTE fully supports the repeal of the deeply flawed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy used to discharge gay, lesbian and bisexual people from the US military. We stand in solidarity with those who want to serve openly, without fear that a revelation of their sexual orientation will end their careers. We recognize, too, that military service is an important path for some to obtain education, jobs, housing and other important benefits.
While DADT is specifically focused on sexual orientation, not on gender identity, it very much impacts transgender service members. Differences in gender expression have been assumed by some to signify a lesbian or gay sexual orientation and so have triggered investigations and discharges. There are many active duty service members who identify as transgender; however, contrary to modern medical understanding, the military continues to wrongly consider gender identity as a mental illness that disqualifies people from entering or serving.
The movement to repeal DADT and the work to pass federal employment protections through the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) share a common root—a person’s right to pursue the career path they choose. One of the freedoms Americans cherish is the right of individuals to determine the course of their own futures. Whether that path is military service or another way of earning a living, none of us should be curtailed from pursuing our dreams and goals because of the prejudice of individuals or institutions.
It is time to remove the barriers to full and open employment for all LGBT people in both the military and civilian sectors.