Saturday, May 18, 2013

Transgender Spouses in the Military

Seemingly, when it rains it pours with posts concerning transgender veterans and their interaction when serving on active duty and after they are discharged.

You regulars here in Cyrsti's Condo know I am a transgender Viet Nam era veteran of the U.S Army, so of course I have a very active interest in all the happenings.

Another very active source for news is Out Serve Magazine and in particular Brynn Tannehill who writes:

"In the past few months, same sex military partners have been part of the collective American conversation. When the Fort Bragg Spouse’s Club resorted to naked discrimination and active condescension to keep Ashley Broadway out, it was splashed all over the news. When Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta extended as many benefits as possible to married same sex partners under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the LGB community celebrated. When the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of Article III of DOMA, the plight of same sex military couples was front and center in the reasons for striking the law down. However, as all this was going on, I realized that another situation has gone unmentioned. What happens when the spouse of a military person is transgender? Some might argue that this is a very rare situation, and doesn’t need attention. However, my recent interactions with a number of transgender people associated with the military say that this situation is far more common than people realize.

A few weeks ago a trans woman in the Dayton area sent me a message asking me if I remembered a female colonel I worked for while I was still on active duty. I did, and replied that I liked her because she generally had a good read on who everyone in the command was and what they were doing. What she wrote next blew my mind. “She came out as a lesbian after she retired in 2008. We’re married now.” A little further digging revealed that they had met and gotten married after the trans woman had transitioned. However, because of military regulations and DOMA, the trans woman did not have base access, Tricare, or any of the other benefits the spouse of a retired colonel would normally have. In short, the military regards them as a same sex couple. But my marriage is regarded as a heterosexual one because I transitioned after we were married, even though in both cases we are trans women married to another woman.

At about the same time, I also spoke with a trans man in the military. He talked about the difficulties he and his boyfriend, a civilian trans man who lives in Washington DC, expect if they get married. Another situation that came up in discussion recently was a trans woman (MTF) I know who is closeted, but on active duty. She is married to a trans man (FTM) who is just starting transition. When the trans man civilian spouse went to medical to start hormone therapy, they refused to treat him unless his spouse came in and verified that she knew what was happening and approved.

Given all of these situations, figuring out which marriages the government will regard as gay or straight is a mind boggling exercise in one of the grayest areas of law. In the case of the retired colonel, the marriage is gay, but only because the trans woman transitioned before the marriage and wasn’t born in Idaho, Ohio, Tennessee, or Texas (where birth certificate gender changes are not legally allowed). However, the two trans men may or may not be a gay marriage, depending if the one in DC changed his SSN gender marker before or after they got married. The trans woman in the military married to a trans man is a heterosexual couple, but the trans man can’t change his gender in DEERS because of DOMA."

In addition, I live close to the Dayton, Ohio area mentioned above.

At the least- as Brynn wrote- this whole situation deals in the deepest shade of gender gray there is and this just scratches the surface. To read more go here.

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A Life in Gender Flux