Australia ends practical ban on transfolk in military

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Australian Defence Force chief Angus Houston has issued an order ending a policy which, while not explicitly banning transfolk from serving, accomplished doing so in practice.

Houston called for all leaders to

manage ADF transgender personnel with fairness, respect and dignity … and existing medical review provisions; and ensure all personnel are not subjects to unacceptable behaviour


Until this order, most transgender service people had been dismissed as “suffering [from] a mental disorder”.

Sally Goldner of TransGender Victoria welcomed the decision but also called upon the government to go further:

TransGender Victoria calls on the urgent implementation of both federal equal opportunity law and of the recommendations of the Sex Files report.

The Sex Files Report identified structural barriers for transgender and intersex people.

There are currently no federal protections for trans and intersex people in Australia.

My friend Kate Cummings of the Gender Centre, a former naval officer, said it was “about time”.

Transgendered people have been acceptable in armed forces elsewhere, for example in Britain, for a number of years.

I can’t see any reason why transgendered people should be treated any differently in the armed forces than they are in civilian life.

Of course, the way we are treated in civilian life in the US is much of the problem.  Presumably things are better in Australia.

The Sex Files: the legal recognition of sex in documents and government records report was issued in March 2009 and made the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: Marital status should not be a relevant consideration as to whether or not a person can request a change in legal sex.

Recommendation 2: The definition of sex affirmation treatment should be broadened so that surgery is not the only criteria for a change in legal sex.

Recommendation 3: The evidentiary requirements for the legal recognition of sex should be relaxed by reducing the quantity of medical evidence required and making greater allowance for people to self-identify their sex.

Recommendation 4: The special needs of children and young people who wish to amend their documents and records should be considered.

Recommendation 5: A person over the age of 18 years should be able to choose to have an unspecified sex noted on documents and records.

Recommendation 6: Information on the process and criteria for the legal recognition of sex should be easily accessible and user-friendly.

Recommendation 7: Documents of identity and processes required for the legal recognition of sex should not reveal personal information about a person’s past identity in relation to sex.

Recommendation 8: Laws and processes for the legal recognition of sex should use empowering terminology.

Recommendation 9: Where possible, sex or gender should be removed from government forms and documents.

Recommendation 10: The federal government should consider the development of national guidelines concerning the collection of sex and gender information from individuals.

Recommendation 11: The federal government should take a leadership role in ensuring that there is a nationally consistent approach to the legal recognition of sex in accordance with the recommendations of this paper, by either

  • working cooperatively with state and territory governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) process to amend their respective legislation and policies in line with the recommendations in this paper, particularly in relation to birth certificates, or
  • establishing a national board with responsibility for receiving and determining applications for official recognition of a change in sex, based on the recommendations in this paper (see section 11.2), as well as securing agreement from states and territories to recognise certificates of recognition issued by such a board.

Recommendation 12: The federal government should consider establishing a national office to advise and assist the public and federal government in relation to changing legal recognition of sex, as an alternative or precursor to the national board put forward in Recommendation 11.

Recommendation 13: In the event that Recommendation 11 fails to result in sufficient support from state and territory governments, the federal government should consider legislation to:

  • amend the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) to ensure that the protection against marital status discrimination applies in the context of married persons seeking to amend their birth certificates, to effectively override the existing discrimination under state and territory births registration legislation
  • establish a minimum national standard in respect of legal recognition of sex in documents and government records in line with the recommendations in this paper.

Recommendation 14: The federal government should harmonise policies, procedures and legislation relevant to the legal recognition of sex in federal documents and records.

Recommendation 15: The federal government should take immediate steps to ensure that all federal government departments and agencies provide clear and accessible information relevant to legal recognition of sex in documents and records and how those documents and records can be amended, such as by including a page on the department or agency’s website dedicated to this topic.

I just wanted to share what is going on in the rest of the world while we haggle about DADT, which does not cover transpeople, which you would never know from the right wingers expounding upon the fear that there will be people in the military who don’t know which clothes to wear when they wake up in the morning.

Dudes.  We would wear the uniform of the United States of America.

Some of us already have done so.  With distinction I might add.

The following interaction is available at this site, which has a security barrier.

Can A Post-Operative Transsexual Join the Military?

Answered by Sharra E. Greer, legal director of the Service members Legal Defense Network. Dec. 6, 2002

Q: Dear Sharra,

I am a post-operative female-to-male transsexual. I desperately want to join the military, but I am aware of that the military medically disqualifies transsexuals.

I am a registered nurse, so I would be in high demand in the military. I was wondering if there is any hope for me being able to join the Reserves.

I’d appreciate any advice.

Thank you,


A: Dear Seb,

Unfortunately, the short answer to your question is that you will probably not be able to join the Reserves. The Department of Defense sets the physical standards criteria, and they must be met by all applicants for military service, including the Reserves and National Guard. Each person attempting to join the military must undergo a physical examination as part of the induction process.

The military considers having had any type of gender-confirming surgery to be a major genital abnormality or defect, even if there are no complications after surgery. If an individual is at any other stage of transition, or does not plan on having surgery, the military considers transsexuality to be a disqualifying psychiatric condition.

The military would find out about a post-operative transsexual either during the physical exam and history or through the entry-level background security-clearance investigation. Lying on the form or to the doctor, or omitting the information, could be viewed as a fraudulent enlistment and subject an individual to Uniform Code of Military Justice penalties and discharge.

You may request a waiver for any medical condition from the branch that you are attempting to join. Each service sets its own rules regarding whether or not a waiver request is appropriate and whether or not such a request will be approved. However, no waivers for gender-confirming surgery were requested between 1996 and 2000, the years for which data was available from the Department of Defense.


Sharra E. Greer

Greer is the legal director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network


Skip to comment form

    • Robyn on September 21, 2010 at 22:26

    There was an html error somewhere.  Copies of this were also posted to WGLB and DK.

    • Edger on September 21, 2010 at 23:30

    in people who consider transgender people to be suffering from a mental disorder simply because they are transexual.

    • melvin on September 22, 2010 at 00:44

    will be filibustered in 2061 by a doddering Christine O’Donnell.

    Creeped out by freaky people? Abolish the Senate.

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