Editors' note: Frequent guest blogger and TAVA president Monica Helms explores the application of DADT to transgender servicemembers.
Tomorrow we once again celebrate one of our country's patriotic holidays, Independence Day. Inevitably, on the three major patriotic holidays, LGB people have a desire to write articles about the need to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I am fully supportive of the need to repeal this stupid law. What I'm not happy about is that in these discussions and articles, transgender veterans are always left out.
It's time for transgender people to be included in the DADT discussion and included in the upcoming articles written about it. Transgender people are at just as much risk of being kicked out under DADT as LGB people are and we now have proof of that. There should be no excuse for any upcoming articles to leave us on the cutting room floor.
The Transgender Veterans Survey, which is being analyzed at this very moment by the Palm Center in California, has some rather interesting numbers regarding transgender veterans and DADT. A total of 827 transgender veterans took the survey, but not all of them answered every question. One of the questions in the survey was what type of discharge a person received, and, out of the 797 people who answered this question, seven said they were discharged under DADT. We must keep in mind that some people were still serving when they took this survey.
Notice that the number is not "Zero." This alone should be proof that we should be included in the discussions.
One of the other things to keep in mind on why the number is so low is that there are not nearly as many military people who identify as being trans than there are those who identify as being gay, lesbian or bisexual. Plus, most of the people who took the survey didn't serve while DADT has been in affect. We had four WWII veterans take the survey and many Vietnam Era veterans who also took it.
Two other factors need to be considered in why the number is so low. One is that many trans people are not really sure about the feelings they have and so their gender identity has not been fully realized while they were in the military. Many LGB people are fully aware of their sexual orientation in their early teen years.
Also, trans people are very good at hiding their situation. It's not that LGB people cannot hide as well, but the fear of getting caught can lead to worse situations than just being discharged. Some trans veterans have stories of being thrown into the brig for being trans. The great ability to hide it is shown by the fact that 86.2% of the people who answered the type of discharge question got out with an Honorable.
The military cannot distinguish between sexual orientation and gender identity. As far as they are concern, if a male likes to wear women's clothes or a woman wants to change her sex, then they are gay. They don't know any better and most refuse to be educated about it. Based on two other questions we asked, many transgender veterans had been questioned about their sexual orientation.
One of the questions we asked was, "Did anyone ever suspect you were gay or asked if you were gay?" Out of the 801 people who answered that question, 302 said, "Yes." We also asked, "Have you ever been questioned by your commanding officer or any other officer because someone said they thought you were gay?" 799 people answered that question and 109 of them said "Yes." It seems that by these questions, transgender people are very much at risk for being targeted for being discharged under DADT.
The time has come that whenever Don't Ask, Don't Tell pops up as a topic of discussion, we have to start saying that this policy affects gay, lesbian, bisexual AND transgender military people. We will surely come across a knowledgeable person who knows the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity and asks why trans people are included. All we have to say is that we have proof that they have been affected by DADT because the military cannot tell the difference. The law still says "sexual orientation," but it is made to include transgender people simply because of how the commanding officers interpret the law.
For those who plan on writing about DADT this patriotic holiday, they need to be fully aware that if you leave out the "T," then there will be plenty of us who will be "T'ed off."