The Louisville Fairness Campaign is drawing attention to the exclusion of gender identity from the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and a soldier who was discharged for being transgender.
In September, the Obama administration repealed 18-year-old policy, which barred gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens from serving openly. However, it did not include gender identity and gay rights activists argue that is leaving out a number of skilled and qualified citizens.
Staff Sergeant Rebecca Grant was discharged from the Army National Guard after serving for over a decade. She did tours of duty overseas, including Bosnia and Iraq.
In 2009, a fellow soldier revealed that Grant is transgender, and she was officially kicked out of the military two weeks before the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” this month.
Grant says getting rid of the policy was a step in the right direction for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members, but that transgender individuals are still unprotected
“With education this could change, people being informed on the different issues, not being closed-minded, not being ultra-conservative. Allowing us to have the rights that we should have had as a United State citizen, we need change,” she says.
Currently eight countries allied with the United States, including Great Britain, Israel and the Czech Republic allow transgender citizens to serve openly in their armed forces.
Local gay rights advocates joined Grant in calling for lawmakers to issue a full repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the U.S. military that will include protections for gender identity.
Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says the issue is about equal protection under the law, but he admits gender identity protections will be difficult for many to accept because the transgender community faces stigma in the larger gay rights movement.
“It’s going to take straight, gay, lesbian and bisexual advocates to lead the charge for transgender folks to have the same and equal rights that gay, lesbian and bisexual people have,” he says. “Stories like Ms. Grant’s oftentimes get shoved under the rug because the larger gay, lesbian and bisexual community sometimes feels they have to take an incremental approach. It hasn’t been that way in Louisville, we’ve never taken that approach. The movement in Louisville has always said fairness is fairness for all.”
According to Army regulations, transgender people are administratively unfit to serve and Grant was discharged for “gender identity disorder,” despite being a decorated soldier with numerous honors.
But Grants says transgender individuals put their lives on the line like everyone else in the military and should be treated the same.
“We fought so many times for different civil right issues, women’s movement, different racial movements and sexual movements. We need to make sure that the gender cause is also made aware of,” says Grant. “There’s no need for discrimination in this country because we’re supposed to be the land of the free.”
The National Guard would not comment for this story.