Our allies allow transgender service members to serve openly. Australia, Belgium, Canada, The Czech Republic, Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Thailand and the UK all have openly working transgender military personnel.
Maybe we’ll be on that list soon. For now, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is considering rethinking the ban on transgender military members, for whom Don’t Ask Don’t Tell still exists. And as we celebrate the military’s LGBT Pride Month in June, it’s a great time to think about transgender issues in our military.
While most people know what homosexuality or bisexuality are, not everyone understands what transgender is. Let me explain: You stare at your reflection in the mirror, but don’t recognize who you see. You are trapped in the wrong body—specifically, you are trapped in the wrong gender. And it’s not fun. My friend Brynn, a graduate of the Naval Academy, says it’s like seeing a stranger. I know that I couldn't live that way.
I think most women -- and most military spouses are women -- can relate to a minor degree. Remember those awkward middle school years when you desperately wanted your body to look like the models in the magazines? Being transgender is similar, although it’s not manufactured by the media and sold. It’s something that you are born with.
Straight up: Transwomen are not men in dresses. Transmen are not tomboys. Transgender people, whether or not they have had yet had sex reassignment surgery or even started to dress as their preferred gender, are real women and real men.
How do I know? Because when I needed a pair of scissors, I knew that my Navy Veteran friend Stephani, formerly Stephen, had some in her purse. All women carry a ton of stuff in their purses and Stephani is no different. My Airman friend, who I’ll call “H,” is a total dude. If you follow him on Facebook, he sounds like any other 19-year-old guy who you sort of want to slap and hug at the same time. Women just don’t talk like he does, so despite being born female, he talks like the male he always was.
And although transgender people have always existed and served honorably in the military, they are still not allowed to serve openly, and that’s unfair. Allowing transgender people to serve their country openly would validate all of my friends who work hard and diligently in support of our country and their spouses who lovingly support them.
Elise Thomasson is an Air Force spouse of four years. She has worked in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office at Kirtland Air Force Base. She is active in other military helping organizations such as Key Spouses, Kirtland Spouses’ Club, and the Gay-Straight Alliance of Military at Kirtland/Albuquerque. She and her husband are parents to both a human child and a delightful dog-child.