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Majority of Americans support open transgender military service

One of the paramount problems in obtaining equal rights is that quite often people refuse to believe that they don't already exist.

A survey by the University of Illinois Research Office has found that 62% of respondents reported that they did not know if transgender people are allowed to serve openly in the military.

Fifty-four percent of respondents support allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military and 58 percent supporting other military branches adopting the U.S. Air policy that states transgender airmen and airwomen will not face “separation” — release from active duty — for openly identifying as transgender or receiving a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. In addition, 66 percent of respondents report that there is no medically valid reason to exclude transgender persons from US military service.

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Document on transgender service leaked

USA Today obtained a memo circulated at last Wednesday's transgender service working group meeting and shared it yesterday.

The document included a timeline for repeal as well as major points to be discussed.

The memo, circulated last week among top personnel and medical officials, lays out the road map for ending the policy and highlights some of the potential issues, including a pilot program that would provide leaves of absences for transgender troops being treated with hormones or having surgery.

The timeline identifies May 27, 2016 as the day transgender Americans will be allowed to serve openly.

Leaders of the Army and Air Force acknowledge that they each have at least 20 transgender troops currently serving openly, according to an anonymous source. Although the current policy would ban such service, there is currently a de facto moratorium on dismissals of troops based on their gender status.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter ordered a six-month review of the issues surrounding transgender service with the assumption that transgender troops can serve openly "objective, practical impediments are identified."

The memo details a list of issues surrounding the open service of transgender troops, including medical treatment, housing, uniforms and physical fitness standards.

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Work begins to ban the ban

The people reviewing the Pentagon's ban on transgender military personnel began meeting on Wednesday.

The working group includes civilians and military personnel representing the Army, AirForce, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff according to Pentagon spokesman Matthew Allen. They will be led by Acting Undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness Brad Carson. The group is expected to submit recommendations and findings by January to Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work.

The committee of about 25 senior personnel officials from each service met Wednesday to discuss issues affecting the estimated 12,800 transgender troops who serve in silence because their condition disqualifies them under Pentagon medical regulations. Last month, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the ban would be reviewed with the assumption that transgender troops would be able to serve openly in six months.

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Pentagon follows the lead of its branches

I'm sure you have heard the news by now. Several people posted about it yesterday or this morning.

Let's face it. I've been scooped.

After there were several instances of leaks and near leaks yesterday sharing that the Pentagon's ban on transgender personnel was not going to survive the week, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter came out with it.

Carter issued two directives. The first one established a Pentagon working group to "study over the next six months the policy and readiness implications of welcoming transgender persons to serve openly."

At my direction, the working group will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified.

The second directive stated that all decisions to dismiss troops with gender dysphoria would come under the purview of acting Secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness Brad Carson.

This second directive elevates further the level of action needed to dismiss transgender personnel. As background, here's the Army doing more or less the same thing: Army discharge policy: Changing while remaining the same.

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Another shoe drops

The Navy and Marines have followed the lead of the Army and the Air Force and made it more difficult to discharge transgender people for being transgender.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus signed a memorandum last Wednesday stating, "Effective immediately, separations initiated under the provisions of the reference for service members with a diagnosis or history of gender dysphoria, who identify themselves as transgender, or who have taken steps to externalize the condition, must be forwarded to the assistant secretary of the Navy (manpower and reserve affairs) for decision."

The memo was sent to the chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps.

Sgt. Shane Ortega, a three-time Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and openly transgender soldier at Wheeler Army Airfield, said he was "elated" with the news because it gives transgender troops worried about discharge "the opportunity to breathe."

These types of historic actions are the ones that parallel the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

--Ortega

The military policy changes mean transgender personnel seeking medical treatment won't be automatically separated from service.

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And Navy makes three?

The Navy is considering whether to follow the path laid down by the Army and Air Force by raising the level of authority required to discharge a sailor based on gender identity.

The Navy is looking to elevate the administrative separation authority for transgendered personnel to ensure that this important issue receives the right level of review. Any proposed changes would not affect the level of discharge authority for other instances of administrative separation.

--Lt. Cmdr Nicole Schwegman, Navy spokesperson

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Air Force cracks open the door to transgender service

 photo Logan-Ireland_zpsltgdzuny.jpgOn Thursday the Air Force announced a policy change which will make it more difficult to for transgender troops to be discharged. The AF's new policy is modeled on the one adopted by the Army in March.

In the past airmen diagnosed with gender dysphoria or who identified as transgender were generally immediately discharged, based upon decisions made by a doctor or unit commander. The new policy requires review of such decisions by officials at Air Force headquarters.

A psychiatrist or psychologist must support the recommendation for discharge for gender dysphoria. A commander must also determine that the condition interferes with troops' performance of their duty.

Though the Air Force policy regarding involuntary separation of gender dysphoric Airmen has not changed, the elevation of decision authority to the Director, Air Force Review Boards Agency, ensures the ability to consistently apply the existing policy.

--Daniel Sitterly, Air Force personnel official

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Squared Away

 photo Oretga1_zpsfha0ar7e.jpgShane Ortega has served three combat tours...two in Iraq and one in Afghanistan...two as a marine and one in the Army...two as a woman and one as a man.

Sgt. Ortega is stationed at Wheeler Army Air Field in Hawaii. "Normally" he would be a helicopter crew chief. But he is temporarily (he hopes) grounded...and has been since last summer. So he's been doing human resources work instead.

Sgt. Ortega has been grounded since a medical test disclosed elevated testosterone levels. But he has a bigger concern. While all his government-issued ID recognize him as male, the Military's Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) still lists him as female.

Sgt. Ortega’s Command has requested clear guidance from the DoD as to whether this means Shane can stay in the military or not.

--ACLU

Meanwhile Sgt. Ortega concentrates on being perfect.

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Congressional Research Service on being transgender in the military

The Congressional Research Service issued a report on April 28 which stated that the Department of Defense should seriously consider following the lead of the Justice Department, which at the end of 2014 announced that transgender federal employees would be added to the list of people protected against discrimination by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The report was unearthed by the Federation of American Scientists and made available at the blog, Secrecy News

The document is entitled CRS Insights, and subtitled What are the Department of Defense (DOD) Policies on Transgender Service?. It was written by Kristy N. Kamarck, who is described as an analyst in military manpower.

On December 18, 2014, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would take the position in litigation that the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to claims of discrimination based on an individual's gender identity, including transgender status. While Title VII does not apply to military personnel, for some, this change in the Administration's position has raised questions about U.S. law and DOD policies as they relate to transgender individuals.

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