Tag Archives: soldiers

Defense secretary comments on transgender military service

UPDATED: White House supports Defense secretary on trangender military service.

Department of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter addressed the issue of military service by transgender people — who are currently prohibited from serving openly — in a town hall in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

When asked about transgender service members serving in “austere environments” such as Afghanistan, Carter replied, in part, “And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

The question to Carter was posed from by a servicemember, who asked, “What are your thoughts on transgender service members serving in an austere environment like this here in Kandahar? Secretary Carter responded, “I come at that from a fundamental starting point. It’s not something I’ve studied a lot since I became secretary of defense. But I come at this kind of question from a fundamental starting point, which is that we want to make our conditions and experience of service as attractive as possible to our best people in our country. And I’m very open-minded about — otherwise about what their personal lives and proclivities are, provided they can do what we need them to do for us. That’s the important criteria. Are they going to be excellent service members? And I don’t think anything but their suitability for service should preclude them.”

On Feb. 23, the White House backed Carter’s statement. During the daily briefing, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said, “The president agrees with the sentiment that all Americans who are qualified to serve should be able to serve.”

LGBT civil rights advocates responded by encouraging Carter to work toward removing the prohibition against transgender people serving openly.

“We urge Secretary Carter to put action to his comments by ordering an immediate review of the outdated regulations that prevent transgender service members from serving our nation openly and honestly,” said David Stacy of the Human Rights Campaign. “As Secretary Carter pointed out, all that should matter is the ability to do the job. Our nation’s transgender service members bravely and heroically serve our nation, and they certainly deserve to be able to be honest about who they are.”

The Palm Center, a research institute based in San Francisco, released a statement referring to prior studies on the issue: “A recent Palm Center study by a former U.S. Surgeon General and retired General and Flag Officers addressed the issue of deployment in austere conditions explicitly and concluded that ‘there is no compelling rationale for banning transgender military service’ and that ‘With few exceptions, transgender service members are deployable and medically ready.’

“Another recent Palm Center study by a former US Army Surgeon General and retired General Officers concluded that, ‘formulating and implementing inclusive policy (for transgender personnel) is administratively feasible and neither excessively complex nor burdensome.’”

The American Military Partner Association, the nation’s largest organization of LGBT military families, also responded. “Secretary Carter is right in that their ability to serve is the only thing that should matter,” said AMPA president Ashley Broadway-Mack. “Thousands of transgender service members ARE currently doing the job, and doing it well, but are forced to do so in silence — forced to lie about something as fundamental as who they are in order to continue to serve. While we applaud Secretary Carter for being ‘open-minded’ on this issue, we urge him to take action that will lead to ending this ban that continues to harm our transgender service members and their families.”

Iraq Veterans Against the War urge against more violence in Iraq

Iraq Veterans Against the War — an organization of those who served or continue to serve in the U.S. military following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 — today called on Congress and the Obama administration to reject the use of violence and militarism in response to the crisis in Iraq.

The statement from the group said, “Many of our members deployed to Iraq during the recent U.S. occupation. Those of us who were there know first hand that U.S. military solutions in Iraq do not serve the interests of the Iraqi people. We advocate for the self-determination of all people, in this case the people of Iraq. Any solution to this crisis must come from them.

“When the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, the formerly secular country was destabilized. The United States and the Department of Defense intentionally created and agitated sectarian divisions that would not have otherwise existed. The result of this is what we see today, and Iraqi civilians are paying for it.

“Iraqis have been paying with their lives for this war since March 2003. After 10 years of U.S. occupation they were left with little relief. Their economic infrastructure was destroyed and new work to repair it has been awarded to US corporations and contractors, instead of to Iraqis. Iraqi labor unions face frequent retaliation, and an entire generation of children has been born with severe birth defects in places like Hawija. No one has been held to account. No effort has been made to clean the waste left behind.

“When it comes to arming “freedom fighters” the U.S. has a tendency to act as a fair-weather friend; today’s freedom fighter becomes tomorrow’s terrorist and justification to pursue an illegal invasion. Instead of creating more chaos, we should be solving the problems that already exist. Instead of installing another puppet president, the United States should be cleaning up environmental contamination, investigating allegations of torture, and allowing democracy to blossom in both government and labor, without US intervention.”

Israel military weekly in trouble over drag story

An article about off-duty soldiers in Israel doubling as drag queens has gotten the Israeli military’s magazine into trouble.

The military said on March 20 that the weekly, Bamahane, must from now on send its articles for approval by chief education officer.

The article interviewed three active duty soldiers who slip into drag after their shifts. It was illustrated by photos, including one of a soldier in military uniform wearing a gas mask and red, over-the-knee boots with see-through high heels.

The military says the army’s chief of the Education and Youth Corps is responsible for overseeing the magazine’s content, but that this has not been enforced.

Bamahane has written before about gays and lesbians in the military.

In 2001, an officer blocked publication of a cover story on Col. Eli Sharon that featured a picture of him holding the rainbow flag under the headline, “This is how I came out of the closet.” The weekly was shut down for a week then.