U.S. military urged to follow Canada’s transgender policy

The Canadian Forces has something the American military does not: a policy that allows transgender people to serve. In the U.S., Pentagon rules prohibit transgender members and if they’re discovered, the military can discharge them.

At a conference on Monday in Washington, D.C., Canada was held up as a model for the U.S. to follow, along with other countries that allow transgender members including Australia, the United Kingdom, Sweden and New Zealand.

Canadian Lt.-Cmdr. Nicole Lassaline spoke on a panel about Canada’s policies, medical and otherwise, and best practices, and Cpl. Natalie Murray shared her personal experience as a transsexual woman who transitioned from male to female while in the air force.

“I love my job,” Murray said in an interview. But despite Canada’s more accommodating policy, it still hasn’t been a smooth ride for her over the past decade.  

“It was rough to say the least,” she said. Murray, who currently works at CFB Comox on Vancouver Island, began her transition in 2003 and was the eighth Canadian Forces member to do so.

She said she experienced harassment and that some of her coworkers, and superiors, tried to force her out of her job. Before Comox, Murray worked at CFB Bagotville, CFB North Bay, was deployed to Bosnia and also worked at CFB Trenton.

“They wanted to get rid of me as quickly as they could, either out of the military, out of the Canadian Forces as a whole or for that matter off the planet — which they came very close to doing,” said Murray.

Murray echoed the sentiments of other panellists from Sweden, Australia and New Zealand who talked about the stress, depression and feelings of suicide that transgender people hiding their secret can experience.

Canada isn’t perfect, but the U.S. can learn some lessons when it is ready to follow its lead, Okros said.

“I think Canada does have some things to offer and to share in terms of how the U.S. could move forward,” he said. “To my mind the real question for the U.S. military is not can they do it, it’s just when.”

Allyson Robinson, a transgender U.S. army veteran, was trained to fight enemies on the battlefield but now she’s fighting the Pentagon’s policy.

“The main problem with the U.S. policy is that it’s woefully out of date,” she said in an interview at the conference. “The obsoleteness of this policy is hurting people. It is hurting 15,000 transgender service members in this country and it’s hurting the units they serve and therefore it’s a readiness issue for us.”

There is no stated rationale for the ban, said Robinson, a policy adviser at SPARTA, an organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military members and veterans.

Canada and other allies are setting a positive example, she said. “Some of the most respected militaries in the world figured this out a long time ago, and I think that’s a powerful argument here in Washington,” she said.

Full article: U.S. military urged to follow Canada’s transgender policy (CBC News)

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