From The Advocate:
BY Mitch Kellaway
June 11 2015
Slowly but surely, stories of transgender people serving openly in the U.S. military are emerging, each heralding a new step of progress in overturning the institutuion’s ban on open trans military service.
This week, Buzzfeed introduced the world to a trans woman serving openly while an active-duty Army officer, Jamie Lee Henry, who has the distinction of being the first known servicemember to change her name and gender within the U.S. armed forces.
A 32-year-old trans woman who serves as a doctor and major in the Army Medical Corps, Henry shared with the news site how she’s been able to remain serving, in part: with the clear support of her commanding officers. When she came out as trans three years ago and faced familial upheaval — which eventually included divorce and a brief stint of homelessness — Henry said her then-commander helped keep her career on track and even temporarily housed her.
When last fall she began to take steps to medically transition, Henry said her new commander backed her too. “My commander said, ‘I don’t care who you love, I don’t care how you identify, I want you to be healthy and I want you to be able to do your job,” she recalled to Buzzfeed. Henry said she expected to be considered a “freak” and to be discharged under Department of Defense Instruction 6130.03, a regulation which dictates that any type of gender-confirming clinical, medical, or surgical treatment is evidence of “disqualifying physical and mental conditions.” Though following the instruction is not required, its common usage has kept an estimated 15,5000 transgender troops serving in silence about their gender identities.
Last last year, the Army ruled that the decision of whether to separate trans troops under this regulation would be taken out of the hands of commanding officers and elevated to the assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs. Even so, chains of command appear to play a key role in the stories of each of the handful of trans servicemembers that have been able to serve openly, as shown by the stories of Jacob Eleazar, who served in the Army as TAC (Teach, Assess, Council) officer, and illustrated by The Advocate‘s exclusive interview with Army Sgt. Shane Ortega last month.