October 17, 2014 at 4:45 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Pelosi endorses openly trans military service
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Party, United States House of Representatives, U.S. Congress, California, gay news, Washington Blade

Nancy Pelosi said the armed forces should be free of discrimination on the basis of gender identity. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has signaled for the first time that she supports allowing transgender people to serve openly in the U.S. armed forces.

Drew Hammill, a Pelosi spokesperson, told the Washington Blade on Friday his boss believes gender identity should not be a factor in prohibiting Americans from serving in the military.

“Leader Pelosi believes there is no place for discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces, including on the basis of gender identity,” Hammill said.

Pelosi’s support for openly transgender service is consistent with her long support for LGBT rights, which includes being a driving force behind “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, advocacy for federal non-discrimination protections and early support for marriage equality.

Transgender people are prohibited from serving in the U.S. military under a medical regulation put in DOD Instruction 6130.03. That rule, put in place before 1980, states disqualifying conditions for military service include change of sex and a “current or history of psychosexual conditions (302) including but not limited to transexualism…exhibitionism, transvestitism, voyeurism and other paraphilias.”

In the aftermath of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, which allowed openly gay people to serve in the armed forces, transgender advocates have increased efforts to compel the Pentagon to change its policy on transgender service. Five months ago, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the policy should be reviewed and the White House said it backs his efforts, but no apparent movement has taken place since that time.

A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed this week that no review on the policy has been ordered. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest deferred to the Pentagon on the issue Thursday and said he’s unsure if Obama would call for a change in policy, but nonetheless said his boss believes equality “makes our armed forces stronger.”

An estimated 15,500 transgender people are serving in silence in the military because of the policy that bars them from being open about their gender identity, according to a May report from the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said she’s happy to have Pelosi’s support for openly transgender military service.

“Military service for transgender people is right morally and, very importantly, it’s right for military readiness,” Keisling said. “Leader Pelosi is correct of course. The outdated, discriminatory ban on open trans service is bad for trans people, bad for military readiness, and bad for America.”

Further, Keisling predicted that openly transgender service would come to fruition just as many other accomplishments for LGBT rights have taken place.

“We are 100 percent confident that open trans military service is as inevitable as the military bureaucracy that seems to have stalled progress once again,” Keisling said.

[UPDATE: Hammill clarified in a later email that Pelosi never previously opposed transgender military service and has articulated her support before. The Washington Blade is unable to find any previous public statement she’s made about the issue.]

Pelosi isn’t the first House Democrat to announce she supports the idea of openly transgender service in the armed forces. Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, said in an interview with LGBT Weekly that she backs ending the military’s ban on trans service.

Following Davis’s remarks, the Washington Blade in August conducted a poll of the House Armed Services Committee members to see if any others supported open trans military service. Reps. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) said they support openly transgender military service, while Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) said the Pentagon should review its ban. No Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee responded to the Washington Blade’s request for comment on the issue.

On Monday, a forum hosted by the ACLU and the San Francisco-based Palm Center is set to take place in D.C. featuring transgender service members from around the globe. Among the speakers are Landon Wilson, a former sailor who was booted from the U.S. Navy for being transgender, and retired Navy SEAL Senior Chief Kristin Beck, who transitioned after she left the military.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • There are enough transgender navy veterans to put another entire ship to sea. I was an E5, EM2 USN from 1995-2001. Earned 2 Good Conduct medals for 6 years of service. I never said why I did not reenlist but that reason is apparent now. I would be retiring next year, but without the support from our elected officials we would be treated as criminals.

  • I too served honorably and my gender identity, which I thought would be resolved through Air Force service was not. It was so problematic that I couldn't get myself to have sex (unlike most enlisted) during my entire enlistment, and yet my service was honorable and my rank at 23 was E-5 Staff Sgt. as an AF MP.

  • At least one ship and probably an aviation squadron as well shipmate!

  • hi if usa where ever in trouble would they conscripted tses to serve knowing full well tses are not aollowed to serve in usa armed forses

  • I was a paratrooper. Makes "hitting the silk" take on a whole new meaning :)

  • There are so many things wrong with transgenders serving in the military I literally don't even know where to begin. First and foremost– There is no clean cut way to say who is "truly" a transgender vs. who's just going through a phase vs. who's just trying to be a pervert to get a free look at the opposite sex. Until that can be established, you can't really do anything with transgenders in the military. Next– men and women have very different prerequisites for passing basic training. This is an issue, because the ONLY medication you're allowed to have in basic are meds that maintain your life and meds that save it. Hormone shots to keep you "girlie" are vanity. That said, a man's natural testosterone will kick in, giving "him" an unfair advantage to doing better than other women in basic training. Next, there's accommodations. I went to basic at Fort Benning where we had open showers. If a man identifying as a woman were to join the military having not removed his male parts" what are the actual women supposed to do when he disrobes in front of them? Just deal with it? My point is– the military is not a social experiment. I

  • I'm not sure why anyone cares what Pelosi thinks about trans military service. Pelosi has a long history of trying to mollify progressives by making supportive public statements on issues she knows full well she and her members either can't or won't have to vote on. Nothing to see here, it's just yet another example of valueless Democratic Party pre-election pandering rhetoric.

  • 13 years in the USN myself. Harassment of "non-christians" never took place. You definitely didn't want to be gay though. It was a Man's navy when I was in.

  • Neil Harris That it was; My first ship was an all male war ship. Church service was not mandatory but the Captains presence in church made it feel compulsory. To all my shipmates past and present let me say thank you for your service!

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