After a long researching and editing process, my first two NCTE resources are coming out this week. They are both related to the broader topic of military identification documents.
First I analyzed the Selective Service, which is something that people might not think about in terms of trans issues, but as a gender-based system, it turned out to be really relevant. Registration requirements are entirely based upon birth-assigned sex, which is problematic for trans people and particularly for trans youth. I will say, though, that I was pretty impressed the Selective Service System (SSS) had protocol for transgender people pretty well laid out and in a decently visible part of their site (their FAQ). Still, the language they use is bad. They refer to “individuals who have had a sex change” which reinforces the incorrect idea that a person’s body defines their gender. Plus, “ individuals who have had a sex change” just plain misses the point since non-operative trans people could just as easily get caught up in Selective Service issues as anyone else.
The biggest challenge for moving forward with the Selective Service-related advocacy will be to get the SSS to treat trans women and men as any other women and men. Of course, this poses its own tough questions like how can young trans folks indicate to the SSS that they live full time as their gender when they often do not have access to surgeries or the ability to change their identification documents? This also, of course, fits neatly into the larger questions progressive people are pursuing around issues like women and gender non-conforming people in military service and conscientious objection.
Another area I analyzed was veterans-related documentation, which is very different. It is a much larger issue and encompasses more individual challenges and problems ranging from access to gender-specific care at Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare facilities to the fair distribution of partner benefits for trans people (including those who are legally married). The main concerns my work addressed were how to get up-to-date military discharge papers (DD 214s and 215s) and change the Department of Defense and VA databases. The biggest problems turned out to be vague and difficult-to-track down policies, surgical requirements, and varying interpretations of regulations referring to “spouses.”
NCTE has been working with other non-profits such as Service Members Legal Defense Network and Transgender American Veterans Association on a trans military working group, which is divided between people working on veterans issues and those on active duty-related issues. We hope to pursue future changes through these collaborative efforts.
Both of these new resources can be found at the links below and I hope people take advantage of them and find them useful. If you have any further questions about their content, please don’t hesitate to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transgender People and Veterans Identification
[Edit: The Veterans Identification Resource has been taken down for further edits before the official launch.]