HRC Blog

Transgender Service Members Forced to Suffer in Silence

Today, as we salute our veterans, we must also reflect on the work that lies ahead to achieve equality everywhere, for everyone, including in the Armed Forces.

Currently, transgender individuals cannot serve openly. According to a story out today from ABC News, that means the estimated 140,000 of America’s 26 million veterans who identify as transgender cannot serve the country they love without hiding who they are and veterans lack rights to equal services. 

While we have come a long way since the repeal of the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy banning gays and lesbians from serving openly, there is still much to be done for transgender members of our Armed Forces.

Several organizations have taken up the mantle to support transgender service members.

The National LGBT Bar Association is working with transgender military veterans to make a formal request of the Obama administration and the Department of Defense to allow transgender military veterans to amend discharge paperwork, known as DD 214, to account for a change in name and gender.

According to the National LGBT Bar Association, discrepancies in the paperwork prevent service members from accessing the services and benefits entitled to them upon leaving active duty.

And this past spring, 121 of the nation’s 151 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers participated in HRC’s Healthcare Equality Index 2013. Nearly 80 percent of the participating VHA facilities were awarded Equality Leader status in the HEI 2013, as they sought to welcome LGBT veterans who have served their country.

The HEI helps hospitals assess themselves against established best practices to certify compliance with legal, regulatory and accreditation requirements for LGBT non-discrimination. 

Together, we can work to protect and honor the brave transgender armed service members, who served and continue to serve in silence. 

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