Transgender military personnel openly serving in 18 countries to convene in DC

Transgender military personnel from 18 countries who allow them to serve openly will gather in the U.S. to talk about their experiences -- and discuss whether the U.S. military could join them.

The American Civil Liberties Union will co-host what it says is the first gathering of transgender military personnel on U.S. soil. The troops will convene to share lessons learned and best practices for open and inclusive military service, said the ACLU, which is co-hosting Monday’s event with The Palm Center.

Currently serving transgender service members, as well as policy experts and ministry officials from the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden will gather to discuss the experiences of 18 foreign countries that allow transgender individuals to serve. They include some of the U.S.’s closest allies: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

An estimated 15,500 transgender personnel serve in the U.S. military, but current policy requires their separation if they are discovered, the ACLU says.

In the final session of the day, American service members and veterans including former Navy SEAL Kristin Beck, a 20-year veteran and subject of a CNN documentary film, Lady Valor, will discuss whether the U.S. military “could apply foreign lessons and best practices for open service.”

The Palm Center, a research initiative of the Department of Political Science at San Francisco State University, recently released a study, “Report of the Planning Commission on Transgender Military Service,” which contends that allowing transgender personnel to serve in the military “is administratively feasible and will not be burdensome or complicated.”

The report also suggests the change is inevitable, noting the U.S. will “likely” join the 18 other countries.

“Unlike ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ the Congressional statute that for nearly two decades prohibited gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from serving openly in the armed forces, the rules and regulations governing transgender military service appear in military instructions under the authority and jurisdiction of the President and Secretary of Defense,” the report notes.