Alex Blaze

Australia allows transgender people to serve in the military

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 16, 2010 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Australia, LGBT, military, transgender, transsexual

It's really, really hard not to make a comparison to the US here:

australian_army_recruitment_poster.gifChief of the Defence Force Angus Houston issued an instruction Monday revoking the policy that effectively banned transgender service members. The ADF is believed to be the last government agency that specifically fired employees for transitioning gender.[...]

While the ADF works on a new policy to address those problems, slated for December, Air Chief Marshall Houston called on commanders to show more understanding. Monday's signal instructed commanders to "manage ADF transgender personnel with fairness, respect and dignity... and existing medical review provisions; and ensure all personnel are not subjects to unacceptable behavior".

It comes 18 years after the ADF repealed the ban on gay and lesbian service members, and two years after it started recognising same-sex relationships for family entitlements. Yet Australia still trails Canada, Israel, Czech Republic, Spain and Thailand, which not only allow transgender soldiers to serve but also support them through diversity programs.

Trans people working for the military isn't even on the table as LGBT military orgs aren't even willing to make a push for it (and don't expect the Democrats to mention this issue any time soon).

And the impression that I get from reading Australian queer media every day isn't that Australians are all that much more liberal than Americans, but just that the government doesn't care so much what the right says as American politicians do. There the rightwing is another voice; here the media and politicians find a new way each election to say that only the right's votes count.

"Soccer moms" were the much talked about demographic in 2000, "values voters" in 2004, "working class white males" in 2008, and now it's the "Tea Party." Liberals and leftists are told they have nowhere else to turn, but who is willing to tell the Tea Party folks to just vote Republican while the GOP makes a turn for the center because who else are they going to vote for?

It's almost like the whole process is intentional.

Either way, the Crikey article says this is the last government body that discriminated against people who transitioned. Congrats to the people who worked for this.

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On that list of countries, they left out the UK, and in Spain, they will only allow trans men to serve.

No-one worked for it.

It was a single individual, wanting to transition while remaining in the armed forces, and some transphobes who weren't following the usual procedure.

So it came to the attention of the top people, who decided to regularise the existing unofficial situation.

A lot of progress here has been made that way. Individuals, usually using the courts (though not in this case) and the opposition not having a leg to stand on.

This was a case of "We decided to end this situation because it's self-evidently silly."

I think this approach is working well in Australia because, in the end, there is an overriding attitude of 'It's noone's business anyway'. America claims to revere personal freedom and such, but here in Oz I'd say it's almost a religion.

Yes, there are right wing groups saying 'This is wrong!' but they aren't getting the traction they are in the US because most people /just don't care/. They aren't gay, they aren't trans, so don't really see a reason they should say anything.

I transitioned here in Brisbane, and still would say that was the best place I ever could have. Full government support for everything short of surgery. I think Australia will be on the forefront of rights going forward just because so much of the population's view on the world, from sexuality to BDSM to fashion choices, is 'if you aren't making ME do it, why should I care what you do?'

Thanks Alex for reporting this story.It is sad that in America we aren't ready to be fully inclusive. But the more countries become inclusive the more pressure it will put on this country to eventually follow suit.

From the Canberra Trans Network

Hi everyone down in Canberra and beyond,

Just thought I would post a link to our first news article and let you know to watch how things are played out from here.

I am so proud of Bridget for standing up for herself and her family against such a big conservative organisation and this is the result, now being made public.

Note one of the comments on the Crikey story is from another trans person in Defence who wants to come out and now can without fear of losing their job thanks to Bridget.

The personal toll on us has been huge and we are now seeking legal support for a damages case against Defence and we also are going to a reconciliation meeting with defence managed by the AHRC in a couple of months.

Bridget will start her new job as the training officer at the Army hospital at Enoggerra in a few weeks and there is going to be a general article on trans
issues in the next Army newspaper to start cultural change in the organisation.

Big steps for all of us and I hope we have the strength to keep going through whatever comes.

Hope you are all doing well in your own lives and we will try to keep in touchevery now and then.

kind regards,

Tammy Clinch

Bridget's partner, Tammy, is staying married to her, and is supporting her all the way.

In Australia, we tend to be disorganised. We fight on many fronts simultaneously, all working towards a common aim, with communication between ourselves, sharing data, but that's about all.

In some ways, the fact that we are individuals, rather than fighting under an organised label, is an advantage in our context. We make smaller targets, and any organisation that took us on would merely give us underdog status and cause public perceptions to go our way.

We also sneak under the radar, things tend not to get politicised.

Now onto the next battle, and the one after that.

They've not had a ban on gays in the military for 18 years. Does that mean once DADT is finally gone, trans folk will have to wait a couple more decades here? Jeebus.

In the UK the government lost a court case at the European level and had to end the expulsion and exclusion of lesbians and gay men from the armed services, but decided to stop excluding T people at the same time. Maybe because it was already illegal to discriminate against us in other employment, or maybe because they confused us with lesbians and gay men, who knows. But no one complained.

The services' medical care provides T procedures too; well its part of the National Health Service so it must, the courts decided that earlier. Now the Royal Navy, Royal Air Force, the Army, etc., send recruiting parties to pride events. The only opposition is snide articles still from the gutter press.

You need to know all this because US armed service personnel, and officers, are now well acquainted with how things work in the forces they serve alongside. Indeed sometimes they are commanded by officers of forces that have such rules, and sometimes US officers command such personnel of other countries' services.