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Essay Humanities Nonfiction Social Sciences

Transgender People in the Military: Don’t Ask? Don’t Tell? Don’t Enlist!

By Adam F. Yerke and Valory Mitchell, 2013

The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell offered legal equality to sex- ual minorities in the military. However, this big step forward had no impact on the policy of exclusion and rejection and the fear and secrecy that resulted for transgender people (whether les- bian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual). In this article, we argue that transgender citizens should have equal opportunity to honorably serve their country, and to be treated with respect and sensitivity as they do so. Many transgender persons may be drawn to military ser- vice and its ethos of masculine values. However, they are currently not permitted entry, and, if they are to enter, must remain hidden or face dismissal, leaving them vulnerable to harassment. While they report both positive and negative experiences during their ser- vice, research documents discrimination in veterans’ healthcare as well as mental health risks resulting from fear and harassment. In contrast to the United States, 11 countries include transgender people in their militaries. Drawing in part from their examples, we end with recommendations for change in the direction of respect and equality of opportunity.

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