The New Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Transgender Troops In The Military

Kristin Beck

As the memory of Don't Ask, Don't Tell begins to fade from the public's mind, one group continues to feel the sting of being forced to serve in silence: transgender troops.

While numerous military officials and politicians claim to embrace the LGBT community, oftentimes these individuals are tacitly omitting the 'T' from discussion. In the military, coming out as transgender still disqualifies you for service, a subject that USA Today tackles in a new article on the issue:

"I was at the Pentagon when Secretary Hagel was saying we're here to celebrate LGBT service," says a transgender Army sergeant who joined the Army as a woman. The sergeant spoke on condition of anonymity to stay in the service.

"I'm kind of looking around for the rest of Ts," the soldier says, referring to transgender troops. Other troops could celebrate marriage equality, the sergeant says, but not the transsexuals.

Transgender pride extends to Defense Department civilian employees such as Amanda Simpson, a senior Army official. Simpson, named to her post by President Obama, is the highest-ranking openly transgender official. She declined to comment for this story.

That pride stops with troops transitioning to the opposite sex.

For now, the Pentagon has no plans to cross that line, says Navy Lt. Cdr. Nathan Christensen, a spokesman. They're medically disqualified, according to Pentagon regulations. Army regulations, for instance, prohibit transvestism.

Because of the current DADT policy, it is unknown how many transgender troops are serving in the military. About 700,000 Americans (0.3% of the total population) are transgender, according to a 2011 study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Regardless of the number, transgender advocates such as Mara Keisling with the National Center for Transgender Equality, say that the only thing that should matter to the military is the ability for troops to do their job effectively. 

Last month, former Navy SEAL Team 6 member Chris Beck revealed in a memoir Warrior Princess that he had become Kristin Beck, a woman. Beck says that the Pentagon should act soon to include transgender troops in its ranks or risk having the policy dictated by Congress or the courts. "It should not be emotional," Beck says. "It needs to be well thought out."

Previously, "Kristen Beck, Transgender Former Navy Seal, Gives Powerful Interview to Anderson Cooper: VIDEO" [tlrd]