Last week the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, an independent Dutch think tank, released the LGBT Military Index, which the group describes as "the first ever global ranking of countries by inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members in the armed forces."
New Zealand, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom took the top honors, while Nigeria, Iran, and Syria have the three least LGBT-inclusive militaries in the world. (No surprise there.)
But what may be more surprising is that the United States earned a mediocre 72.8 (out of 100 possible points), low enough to land the U.S. military way down in 40th place -- behind countries like Colombia, Albania, and Cuba.
The reason? It's partially due to an outdated anti-sodomy provision that still exists in military law and the fact that the Department of Defense apparently doesn't recognize LGBT military groups, but the primary reason is that the U.S. military doesn't allow trans soldiers to serve openly.
The Guardian reports:
"There have been big steps since don't ask, don't tell and the repeal of DOMA," said Joshua Polchar, who helped produce the centre's LGBT in the armed forces index. "But the headline story is that the US continues to lag behind on the transgender issue."
Polchar added that the question of how military services around the world deal with LGBT issues was not purely a question of human rights. "This is also about military effectiveness, as an inclusive and respectful culture benefits straight people, LGBT people and the armed forces as a whole."
The Department of Defense (DOD) states that anyone must be rejected for military service if they have a "current or history" of "transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism and other paraphilias" which it defines as "psychosexual conditions". In a separate section of its medical instructions, the DOD says that a "history of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia including but not limited to change of sex" is also a reason for rejection.
Bilerico Project guest blogger Brynn Tannehill, an experienced Navy veteran who transitioned after she left the service, told The Guardian that in her estimation, 75% of all trans servicemembers are completely closeted to military personnel. And Tannehill said that while the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the sea change in acceptance of marriage equality were encouraging signs of progress in the military, the exclusion of trans soldiers from open service remains a major problem.
"There's a lot more that could still be done," she said, referring to the Defense Department's trans-exclusionary policies. "This is a policy problem caused by a medical regulation that can be changed."
A recent New York Times op-ed highlighted the absurdity and injustice of these policies. Details after the jump.