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.