Monday, May 16, 2016

MILITARY TRANSITION - Transgender Soldiers

"Transgender soldiers gain ground as U.S. military transitions" PBS NewsHour 5/11/2016


SUMMARY:  Last July, Defense Secretary Ash Carter ended the policy of discharging soldiers who change their gender identity, and began drafting a plan for transgender soldiers to serve openly.  With a greater proportion of transgender people in the armed forces as compared to the general public, supporters and critics alike are preparing for big changes.  The NewsHour's William Brangham and P.J. Tobia report.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  In 2014, Lieutenant Blake Dremann was going to be one of the first women to serve on a U.S. Navy submarine.

LT. BLAKE DREMANN, U.S. Navy:  We got invited to the White House, and this is me with the President and the first 24 females on a submarine.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  But by the time that vessel launched in late 2013, Blake was physically transitioning to the male gender, and giving himself weekly hormone injections.

LT. BLAKE DREMANN:  I took my first shot the week before we got under way, and I took them under way with us.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Blake is a transgender man.  His sex at birth was female, but he's long identified himself as male.

LT. BLAKE DREMANN:  I probably knew when I was like 5, right, that something was amiss. But you grow up in the church, you grow up in Bible college, that type of environment, and you just learn to ignore it.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  Blake is now stationed at the Pentagon.  He says most of the other officers treat him like any another colleague.

LT. BLAKE DREMANN:  The senior officers have been very receptive about it.  And I have talked to all kinds of them for sometimes an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a time just kind of answering questions.  And if you ask, I'm very open.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM:  The tide has slowly been turning for transgender service members like Blake.  Until last year, if a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine changed their gender identity, Pentagon policy was to give them a medical disqualification and discharge them from service.

This was policy, but it wasn't always strictly enforced.  But last July, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stopped these dismissals, and ordered the Pentagon to draft plans to allow transgender people to serve openly.

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