On Veterans Day, the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) pays tribute to all those who have served in our nation’s military, and renews our call for an end to the ban on open transgender service.
An estimated 20 percent of transgender adults have served in the military during their lifetime and an estimated 134,000 veterans identify as transgender. 15,000 transgender individuals are actively serving. Despite their sacrifices, the United States has only recently begun to stand with them.
In July, the Department of Defense took steps to lift the ban on open transgender military service. In announcing the formation of a six-month working group to study the “policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged that transgender soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines “are being hurt by an outdated, confusing, inconsistent approach that’s contrary to our value of service and individual merit.” In addition to forming the working group, the Secretary moved to immediately limit discharges by elevating all discharge decisions impacting transgender service members to Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
Statement from TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman
“Today we honour the courageous veterans who put their lives on the line in defence of our nation. We emphasise our gratitude for the service of transgender military personnel who have had to hide who they are or risk discharge under the military’s biased and outdated regulations.
“We are encouraged by the Department of Defense’s steps to end the ban on open transgender military service. And the immediate discharge of transgender service members has been largely halted, as it should be.
“But there remains much to do. Transgender veterans face unreasonable difficulty accessing transition-related health care from the Veterans Health Administration. And veterans seeking to correct identity documents like discharge papers still face tremendous barriers when trying to do so. The government continues to persecute transgender veterans, demanding repayment of loans after discharging personnel just because of who they are.
“Qualified and talented people continue to bear the burden of serving in the shadows while we wait for the Pentagon to announce a final policy. We urge the Pentagon to lift the ban on open transgender service as soon as possible. And we call upon all government agencies to ensure that transgender veterans are treated fairly and equally.
“We thank all of the brave transgender men and women who have served and sacrificed in silence and those who continue to serve our country with distinction today. Like all service members who regularly put themselves in harm’s way in our defence, transgender service members deserve the respect and dignity that come with serving openly.”