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ADF shares transgender military experience with allies


Three DEFGLIS members representing the Australian Defence Force contributed to an international forum on the experience and policy frameworks of transgender personnel in military forces to determine whether it might be possible for transgender personnel to serve in the US military forces.

The opportunity, primarily funded by the Palm Centre, a US military think tank, provided a forum to share what DEFGLIS and the Australian Defence Force have learned about the lived transgender military experience as well as the practical challenges of implementing policy reform in this area.

DEFGLIS’ Major Donna Harding and Squadron Leaders Cate Humphries and Vince Chong were joined by representatives from New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and Sweden in contributing their personal and professional experiences to the conference.

As a registered nurse, Harding argued that retaining highly trained, experienced and skilled members of Defence through transition and back into operational service far outweighed the costs.

“Treatments are relatively cheap when you compare them to the working lifetime costs of not treating gender dysphoria,” Harding said.

“Being able to be open and authentic is the key to being able to perform your job, so you are not managing the stress of having to hide. It’s about service with dignity.”

Humphries, one of the first female personnel to serve in a close combat role said that her experience was that with the application of commonsense, austere environments typical during operational service should not present a challenge for transgender personnel.

“Once a member is stable and confident as themselves post-transition, there is absolutely no reason why they can not operate in all military environments they are physically fit for,” Humphries said.

Chong added that “personnel are central to the projection of combat capability, and as such it's a priority is to ensure members are deployable or become deployable following any medical treatment. The ADF’s approach to gender transition is compassionate, respectful and supports this goal.”

The conference provided valuable insight into alternative approaches to policy development, guidance for the workplace and education. These approaches will be summarised as recommendations in a report that will be submitted to the Department later this year.

Australia’s Air Force Gender Transition Guide was recognised during the conference as one of the most comprehensive guides available to assist military workplaces through successful gender transition. The guide, which includes templates to assist with informing and educating the workplace, contributed to Australia’s ranking as one of the top 10 LGBTI-inclusive military forces in the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies report LGBT Military Personnel: A strategic vision for inclusion.

The ADF removed the policy requiring transgender personnel to be discharged in 2010, three years prior to the introduction of federal legislative protections for transgender persons in 2013.

Transgender people are currently prohibited from serving in the U.S. military by a medical regulation in DOD Instruction 6130.03 introduced prior to 1980.

An estimated 15,500 personnel with gender dysphoria are currently serving in the U.S. military according to a report produced by The Williams Institute.

For personnel seeking support, or candidates who would like to seek more information, you can contact the DEFGLIS Transgender Advisers directly through our website. Transgender personnel are invited to join the secret transgender facebook group - access to the group is provided by the DEFGLIS Transgender Advisers through the website.


Top Photo (R-L): SQNLDR Cate Humphries, Flt. Lt . (UK) Caroline Paige and PO (USA) Landon Wilson (retired), and Jonathan Block (American Civil Liberties Union). In the background: 18 flags of countries that allow open transgender service, additionally USA flag is displayed as host nation.

Bottom Photo (R-L): Cpl. (CA) Natalie Murray , MAJ Donna Harding, Sgt. (NZ) Lucy Jordan, Maj. (SE) Alexandra Larsson, and Aaron Belkin (Director - Palm Centre). In the background: 18 flags of countries that allow open transgender service, additionally USA flag is displayed as host nation.

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