New Report: Open Trans Military Service “Administratively Feasible”

August 26, 2014

Our colleagues at the Palm Center at San Francisco State University this week issued a new report finding that allowing open military service for transgender people “is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome.” The study, “Report of the Planning Commission on Transgender Military Service,” comes from a commission of experts including three retired Generals and serves as a road map for the U.S. Department of Defense to review their regulations that disallow open transgender military service.

The report comes three months after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he is open to reviewing the regulations that bar transgender people from serving openly, and ahead of the three year anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

National Center for Transgender Equality commends the findings of this report and calls on the Defense Department to initiate the review. NCTE is confident that open transgender military service is inevitable and we will continue to work until it is achieved.

Read the report here.


Milestone: Smithsonian Accepts Original Trans Pride Flag

August 19, 2014

Today, Monica Helms, a transgender activist and Navy veteran,  presented the original transgender pride flag created 15 years ago this month to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The flag will be added to the Museum’s permanent archives along with several other objects that represent cultural milestones in LGBT history. Along with the transgender pride flag, the Smithsonian accepted artifacts from Helms’ military career and Renee Richards’ racquet used to play in the 1963 All-Navy Championship and the 1964 New York State Men’s Championship.

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NCTE Executive Director, Mara Keisling, who joined Helms at today’s ceremony, said:

​”The cuts of blue, pink, and white fabric that Monica first bound together 15 years ago now form a symbol of the trans community. They have fused forever into a flag that’s been carried into places previously unwelcome to us, charting community and fellowship in the face of violence and mistreatment. Finally today, that same fabric is being recognized as part of the red, white, and blue fabric that make up the richness of America. I’m deeply honored that today, the transgender pride flag—our flag—is being accepted as an American historical treasure that honors transgender people. Today’s ceremony is part of the forward cultural change that says—in the eyes of America—transgender people are here, have been here, and will always be here.”

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NCTE Welcomes Review of Outdated Military Regulations Barring Transgender Service

May 11, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s statement on ABC’s This Morning that the Department of Defense should review the military’s policies that prohibits open transgender military service. “We look forward to working with the Pentagon to end these outdated rules that harm our military,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling.

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told ABC News that he believes the ban should be reviewed. “I do think it continually should be reviewed,” he said. “I’m open to that. I’m open to those assessments, because — again, I go back to the bottom line — every qualified American who wants to serve our country should have an opportunity if they fit the qualifications and can do it,” he said.

NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said, “This willingness to evaluating changes to the medical regulations is overdue but very welcome. If the Secretary were able to meet and talk with the trans service members I’ve met, he’d understand the answer is self-evident. These are amazing people who serve even though they must hide a basic part of who they are.

Our National Transgender Discrimination Survey, conducted by NCTE and The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, showed that about one-fifth of all transgender adults are veterans, making transgender people approximately twice as likely as others to serve in the military.

Read our full statement here.


Expert Commission: Military Policies on Trans People Not Based on Science

March 13, 2014
Bryce Celotto, former NCTE intern and transgender service member.

Bryce Celotto, former NCTE intern and transgender service member, is featured in a forthcoming web series documentary, “TransMilitary.” 

A national commission chaired by a former US Surgeon General and a former health and safety director for the Coast Guard released a major report this week, finding that US military policies on transgender service members are not based on sound medical science and should be revised. The commission found that the ban on service by transgender people is “an expensive, damaging, and unfair barrier to health care access for the approximately 15,450 transgender personnel” who currently service in uniform.

The commission also criticized the current policy of discharging personnel found to be transgender irrespective of their fitness for duty, stating this is “inconsistent with how the military regulates all other medical and psychological conditions.” Former US Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders and retired Rear Admiral Alan Steinman, who are in leading medical positions in the Coast Guard and Public Health Service, chaired the commission, and a group of 16 current and former military university professors endorsed the quality of their research and the reasonableness of their conclusions.

The report, published by the Palm Center at San Francisco State University, found that current military regulations regarding transgender people are inconsistent with military policies that permit other service members to be deployed while on hormone medications; permit other service members to continue serving following reconstructive surgeries; and do not discharge service members based on medical diagnoses without an assessment of individual fitness for duty. The report also found that current rules fail to account for recent changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and compromise continuity of care between the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration, which has made great strides in supporting trans veterans.

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Honoring the Service of All Veterans

November 11, 2013

According to a national survey by NCTE and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, fully one in five transgender adults in the United States – or an estimated 140,000 transgender people today – have served in the armed forces. While still not able to do so openly (nearly one in ten transgender veterans reports having been discharged due to their gender identity), transgender people have served in every conflict in our nation’s history, and many continue to today.

In recent years, enormous steps have been taken toward achieving equal access to support and earned benefits for transgender veterans. Undoubtedly the most visible achievement has been the 2011 Veterans Health Administration directive, updated in 2013, calling for respectful and nondiscriminatory services for transgender veterans, and equal access to health care to the greatest extent possible under current regulations. The Veterans Administration has continued in recent years its efforts to increase providers’ cultural competence and clinical knowledge for serving transgender veterans, and NCTE serves as an advisor for an ongoing VHA working group on these efforts, which have included developing training, clinical guidelines, and consultation for providers. This is an area where a very modest effort can lead to significant gains in health care quality by giving targeted attention to previously-neglected barriers.

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Toward Open Military Service

August 2, 2013

Transgender people cannot currently serve openly in the U.S. Military. Military medical regulations, as currently written and implemented, effectively preclude service. These rules are based on unsupportable, old fashioned, unscientific nothing and they must end. And they will end.

Finally, nearly three years after Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, attention is finally turning to trans military service. Just this week, our colleagues at The Palm Center announced that they have commissioned eleven studies, supported by the largest known grant ever given to a trans policy effort. And yesterday, The Williams Institute released a new analysis of the challenges reported by veterans in the NCTE/Task Force National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS).

Even more is happening behind the scenes. Conversations are starting, plans are being laid, and progress seems inevitable. We will win open military service for trans people.

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Veterans Health Admin. Renews Trans Health Care Directive

February 11, 2013

The Veterans Health Administration has issued a renewed and updated directive on providing health care for transgender veterans and veterans with intersex conditions. VHA originally issued this directive in June 2011, and like other VHA directives it carried a technical expiration date, and was intended to be updated or included in other, permanent VHA policy documents in the future. While the expiration date passed in late 2012, actual VA policy never changed, and the new directive is effective for at least the next five years.

The renewed VHA directive is essentially identical to the 2011 version, but is accompanied by an official FAQ document that provides helpful clarification on patients’ rights to be treated according to their gender identity for purposes of pronouns, restroom access, and room placements, as well as on how to update gender markers in VHA patient records. There is also additional guidance for VHA health care providers who may be treating a transgender or intersex patient for the first time.

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