Gender Prison: Hagel says he's open to reviewing transgender eligibility

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was on ABC's This Week on Sunday, intervierwed by Martha Raddatz, and was prompted to comment about the ban on transgender service members.



I regret that this runs automatically:



Some of it was the same-old same-old.

The issue of transgender is a bit more complicated because it has a medical component to it. These issues require medical attention. Austere locations where we put our men and women in many cases don't always provide that kind of opportunity.


But he added:

I do think it continually should be reviewed. I’m open to that, by the way. 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. This is an area that we’ve not defined enough.


The National Center for Transgender Equality said that Hagel's willingness to review the policy was "overdue but very welcome" because the current policy is "arbitrary and archaic." NCTE said that currently thousands of transgender people are already serving "but are forced to hide who they are or risk losing their careers."

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.

--Mara Keisling, NCTE

This is the biggest baby step we've ever had.

--Allyson Robinson, policy director of SRART*A

Robinson, 43, is a transgender veteran and West Point graduate.

Many of our allies, including the UK, Australia and Israel, allow transgender people to serve with pride and honor in their armed forces. It's time for the U.S. to join them.


Inside the military, an Army captain, transitioning from woman to man, called the news "incredibly exciting." His superiors know that he has undergone hormone treatment and surgery and accept and support him because he does his job, he says.

We know that we are fit to serve. Our commanders and our colleagues know that we are fit to serve.

--anonymous Army captain

Earlier this year a Palm Center report led by Joycelyn Elders found "no compelling medical reason" to bar transgender troops from serving. The report estimated that 15,000 transgender troops are currently serving.

Nathaniel Frank has an essay at Slate: Will Obama Sanction a Policy on Transgender Military Service That's at Odds with Science?

The question is how long this will take, what the review will find, and what force will ensure that it really happens, so that each Pentagon leader doesn’t just run out the clock, locking in the status quo.


Frank says the obvious force is the Commander-in- Chief.

It may seem reasonable, at first blush, for the president to avoid weighing in on a touchy cultural issue at this point in his tenure. His second term is floundering, and it could open him up to criticism if he seems to be taking on small-bore social issues while the economy and world events appear to spiral out of control.

But that assessment is incomplete. For starters, transgender equality may seem like a small-bore issue, (though not, obviously, to transgender people); but with literally no reason beyond prejudice to let transgender Americans suffer in silence as they honorably defend out nation, it’s increasingly becoming a blemish on the president’s record, and on our country’s soul, to do nothing.


Since the Palm Center report, the Pentagon has been regularly...even robotically..."murmuring meaningless meanderings about the 'austere environments' of military life that could make some medical care difficult to access."

Never mind that the military already supplies complex medical care in the field—equally or more burdensome than what many transgender people require—to tens of thousands of service members, including to those who require the very same medications that are said to disqualify trans members.





No votes yet


The right to serve in the military is not...

Robyn's picture

..everyone's cup of tea, but it is symbolic. When the US military classifies us as mentally defective, regardless of the determination of Psych professionals, we don't have much chance of overcoming that in the eyes of the general populace. As Allyson Robinson said, it's a very large "baby step."

No votes yet